Self- Release – 2016
8 tracks: 40 minutes
For their third album Jason Vivone And The Billy Bats have produced a concept album featuring songs about or inspired by their home base of Kansas City and the particularly notorious street in which Jason lived at the time. Jason is the lead vocalist and slide guitar player and is accompanied by Paula Crawford on guitar, Rick McIvor on keys, Ben Hoppes on banjo, Jeremy Clark on bass, Matt Bustamente on drums; most band members add backing vocals to assist seventh Billy Bat Joanna Berkebile. All bar one of the songs is original, written by Jason.
Opener “The Vivone Song” is a semi-spoken story about Jason and how to pronounce his name, including reference to his struggles to get a recording contract with Chicago labels Alligator and Delmark. The tune has an insistent drum beat that recalls Bo Diddley and a tongue-in-cheek reference to Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side” as Jason introduces his choir of backing vocalists but very little else musically. The cover of Jim Jackson’s “Kansas City Blues” has greater instrumentation with piano and Jason’s slide to the fore on a rocking tune.
Title song “The Avenue” is a ‘down’ song as Jason describes some of the shady characters on his street, just melancholy guitar and the choir here. Another strange character who regularly dialled and spoke into a pay phone that did not in fact work is the theme from “Hello Mrs Radzinsky” which fades in with organ beneath Jason’s vocal, Jason adding some slide after the first verse to good effect but again it’s a fairly minimal piece. “Train Musta Jumped The Track” has rather dreary spoken vocals; I doubt if this will fulfil the desire to reinstate the train song. “Calendar” is about the sort of calendars that used to be sold from beneath the counter but have now been superseded by Photoshop and is apparently a live favorite but it is hard to tell from this version which plods along for over seven minutes at funereal pace though Jason’s slide work is fine.
Even longer is “My Heart Is In The Right Place” which the notes describe as “a funky little band breakdown” and here we get a livelier performance with the piano, banjo and slide all featured. Although almost an instrumental this was the strongest track for this reviewer’s tastes. The album closes with the solo slide instrumental “His Honor, The Mayor”, a short tribute to another character from The Avenue, a man well known to everyone who, following a childhood accident was left with the mind of a child but a kind heart.
This band has won a loyal following and they will undoubtedly enjoy the latest offering from the band.