Blue Palace Records
12 songs time-55:05
Jan James has cornered the market on yearning, rough-edged and soulful vocals as evidenced on this her latest release. Think a bit more restrained Elkie Brooks from her days with England’s R&B-blues outfit Vinegar Joe or Janis Joplin kicked back a few notches. That’s not to say that Jan is a light weight in the vocal department. She just reins it in a bit more than those two blues inspired shouters. Her voice has just the right amount of swagger and grit. The band led by hot shot guitarist-producer Craig Calvert kicks much butt while supporting “the voice”. Craig’s guitar prowess teeters on the line between blues and blues-rock. A good place to teeter I must say. The guys know when to hold back and when to let it fly. With Jan’s powerful pipes at the helm combined with the song writing of Jan and Craig you just can’t go wrong. Hang on and enjoy the ride.
Craig Calvert’s guitar takes charge behind Jan’s soulful and gritty vocal on the lead-off track “I’m A Gambler”. “Roll Sweet Daddy” struts along to a nifty guitar riff with a simple lyric. This tune is more about attitude than complicated lyrical content. That’s a compliment. Smooth and melancholy is an apt description for “Heart Of The Blues” where blues guitar meets blues rock guitar to form a daunting combination while Jan’s soul-drenched vocal is the perfect fit for this song.
The narrator relays the sentiment that she is better off without her trifling man in the breezy “Cry Cry Cry”. The kick off guitar lick to “Losing Man” is an almost complete lift of Led Zeppelins’ intro to their “You Shook Me”. The song contains some way wicked electric slide guitar. The Elkie Brooks resemblance turns up in “It’s So Easy”, a nicely rollin’ acoustic slide guitar fired song. The title track is a plea to end the violence in Chicago, a heavy rocker that includes David Semen’s harp and Bob Long’s rollicking piano right under the surface.
“Bucky Blues” is a powerful eulogy to a supposed lover that has passed on to “wearing angels wings”. Heavy duty dueling guitars make an appearance here. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan is addressed in “Trouble With The Water”. A very poignant recitation. Some Janis Joplin influence appears on the slow churning “Black Orchid Blues” that closes out the album with some of the strongest guitar playing found here.
You can’t go wrong with this blend of blues, R&B, and blues-rock. From the powerhouse vocals to solid guitar playing to a great backing band and strong song writing and production values, it’s all here. It’s no accident then that Jan James is a fixture on the Chicago music scene. The lyrics and complimentary musical support are right on track. This lady and company deserve all the accolades they can garner.