J.J. Vicars – Irreverent Dissident | Album Review

J.J. Vicars – Irreverent Dissident

Self Release


13 tracks / 45:47

After a decade of playing overseas, J.J. Vicars has returned to the states to take a prominent role in the Ohio music scene. He has an impressive catalog of original music that he has released, and his new album, Irreverent Dissident, is a fun collection of tunes with his unique voice and attitude. For this disc, J.J. took the roles of producer, songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist, so what you hear through your speakers is very close to his original vision. By the way, it is apparent that Vicars loves the rock and roll/hotrod lifestyle, and looking at his album artwork, how can anybody not like a guy who appreciates dogs, mid-1930s Plymouths, and 1952 Chevys?

Irreverent Dissident is dedicated to the memory of Vicars’ friend, Larry Slezak, and it was recorded at Jupiter Studios in Alliance, Ohio where it was engineered and mastered by Richie Kindler. The line-up of musicians varies from track to track, which makes a lot of sense when the listener finds that the album is divided into three distinct thematic sections. This is all good news, and J.J. delivers throughout this set with plenty of blues, blues-rock, and some serious boogie tunes. If you need further validation of this, consider that Vicars and his band topped the competitors to take home a win at the 2017 Northeast Ohio Blues Challenge, earning them a trip to Memphis for the International Blues Challenge

J.J. breaks his set up into three different themes, with the first part of the disc kicking off with “Los Vatos in A,” a soaring guitar instrumental that might remind the listener of Joe Satriani’s more conventional work. The rest of this section features Anthony Lumpp on bass and Danny Lumpp on drums, and includes two originals: “Long Way From Home,” a blues rocker, and “Can’t Get Along With You,” a very tasty shuffle. One of the few covers on this album is also found here, and Willie Dixon’s “Wang Dang Doodle Dang” is presented with a new edge that really spices up this standard.

The middle portion of the album leads off with Bill Wheldon’s 1930s tune, “Outskirts of Town,” which provides a jazzier version of the countrified original. “Stinky Twinky” has kind of a nasty name, but this ends up being a high-energy and quite tasty rocker with some spectacular sax work from Big Jay McNeely, who recorded his part just before his 90th birthday. This section closes out with “Downhome” which has Texas sound with some lovely B3 playing from Robert Johnson, as well as bass from Denny Wright and drums from Doug Oscard.

Part three is introduced by another guitar instrumental, “Deguello,” which evokes imagery of the traditional Mexican army bugle call that was famously used at the Battle of the Alamo to indicate that there would be no quarter provided to survivors of the conflict. At least that is what I remember from those old John Wayne movies… Things get a little more traditional after this thanks to a western blues influence that is provided by Hugh Ashton on dobro, Danny Katz on piano, and Hisa Nakase on the double bass. These songs include the original swing tune “Things I Need,” as well as Dr. Todd’s ballad, “That Ain’t Me” and Wayne Miller’s “What Do I Tell My Heart?”

Vicars also include a pair of bonus tracks that serve to get the play time over 45 minutes and provide a little more content for the listener. “Three-toed Midget” is more of a whimsical folk/bluegrass tune, though there is the possibility that some could find the content degrading or objectionable. There is also an alternate take on “Stinky Twinky” that gives J.J. the chance to really tear loose, and his guitar technique and tone are ultra impressive.

J.J. Vicars’ Irreverent Dissident is a thoughtful collection of songs that is both playful and well written. J.J. works a solid blues base into many paths, and this is an album that allows his fans to hear something new with every listen. You can hear samples of this work at his website and find the list of gigs that he has coming up in and around Ohio. If you are going to be around the Buckeye State this summer, it would certainly be cool to see his live show too!

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