Grooveyard Records – 2015
11 tracks: 57 minutes
Jay Jesse Johnson – Set The Blues On Fire
Grooveyard Records – 2015
12 tracks: 57 minutes
Grooveyard Records states on its website that it is “dedicated to producing and promoting supreme bad-ass, killer heavy guitar ‘six string mojo’ from around the world” and its strapline reads “outstanding total guitar rock music” so it is not at all surprising that these two releases are both at the rock end of the blues-rock spectrum.
Bryce Janey operates in a power trio format, Bryce on vocals and guitar, Dan ‘DJ’ Johnson on bass and Eric Douglas on drums; Perry Welsh adds harmonica to the title track. The album contains nine originals written by Bryce, one a co-write with producer (and label boss) Joe Romagnola, plus covers of Robert Johnson and Rory Gallagher. The album opens with some discordant guitar noise over a solid rhythm that soon gives way to some power chording. The slide-driven stomper “This Old Guitar” in which Bryce tells us about one of his first instruments is good fun and the title track “Delta Road” continues with slide as well as adding some solid harp support. “Delta Road” follows on in the tradition of songs in which the bluesman sells his soul and lyrically Bryce reinforces that image by quoting from several Robert Johnson songs. Rory Gallagher’s “Lonesome Highway” is driven along well by drummer Eric and Bryce gives us plenty of guitar flourishes in a double-tracked slide and lead production. Bryce is concerned with the way things are going in “World Of Trouble” but concludes that he no longer cares and will just “keep a guitar by my side”: whether Bryce’s Hendrixisms will be effective in solving the world’s issues remains to be seen! The sole change of pace here is “Time Doesn’t Wait” which comes towards the end of the album and offers some gentler guitar styling that are well suited to the tragic lyrics of the song. Bryce closes with RJ’s “Hellhound On My Trail”, shifting to acoustic steel slide for the only time on the album and it is again a change that works well.
Jay Jesse Johnson is a little further to the rock side of the blues, working in a quartet with keys from Lee Evans, bass from Reed Bogart and drums from Jeff ‘Smokey’ Donaldson. Jay plays guitar, handles all vocals and wrote all the material here, as well as producing the CD. The presence of the keyboards adds texture but is offset by Jay’s tendency to go over the top in his solos, a good example being “Voodoo Woman” which even opens with some delicate Spanish guitar before the rhythm section sets a driving shuffle – so far so good, but in a succession of searing solos Jay manages to set this reviewer’s teeth on edge. There are some slower tunes such as “Since My Baby’s Gone” which recalls Gary Moore’s style with a ballad and the torrid “Grinding Blues” which has a revealing lyric as Jay is pursued by the law but claims that “firing up my riffage is my only offence” – indeed! Jay has a solid voice that works on both slower material as well as on upbeat tunes like “Wheelhouse Boogie” which speeds along over a ZZ Top style riff over which Jay lays some keening slide work. The melodic instrumental “Rio De Los Sueños (River Of Dreams)” shows just what a fleet-fingered guitarist Jay is but this time he plays in a more contained manner to close out the album.
These two albums will appeal to those who enjoy the heavier style of blues-rock with plenty of guitar pyrotechnics.