Jeff Fetterman – Southern Son
Self-Release – 2020
12 tracks; 62 minutes
Pennsylvania’s Jeff Fetterman returns with his third album, this time recorded with Kid Andersen at his famed Greaseland Studios. Kid often presides over West Coast jump blues and roots music but this album is more in blues-rock mode with all the songs bar one originals written by Jeff. Jeff’s regular touring band (Jeff and Eric Brewer on guitars, Ralph Reitinger III on bass and John McGuire on drums) is supplemented by Kid on keys, guitar and backing vocals and a horn section of Doug Rowan on sax, John Halbleib on trumpet and Ric ‘Mightybone’ Feliciano on trombone appears on the first two tracks.
Opening cut “I Don’t Want To” is a full-on blues-rocker with Jeff’s gruff vocal explaining that the relationship he is in has become toxic, the horns in declamatory mode and Jeff hitting the wah-wah in his solo. Jeff revisits the story of Robert Johnson’s ‘deal at the crossroads’ in “49/61” which has an intense rhythm and lots of good interplay between the guitars, the horns underlining the chorus, before Jeff drops the pace and plays some fine guitar on a tender ballad which references Springsteen in the first verse and has something of the wide open spaces style of The Boss’ writing in lines like “if you want to take a chance go ahead baby and roll the dice, together we can dance tonight under the stars of a Memphis Sky”. The tour of the South continues with good time rocker “Goin’ Down To Nashville” which makes great use of the classic Elmore James slide riff before the slow “Living With The Blues” to which Kid adds some atmospheric electric piano.
The next two tracks have familiar titles though both are originals. “Ain’t Got You” uses the tune of “Smokestack Lightning” and the sentiments expressed are very much in line with Calvin Carter’s song made famous by Jimmy Reed, Billy Boy Arnold and The Yardbirds; “Feels Like Rain” is a mid-paced Americana rocker with a catchy tune and good guitar interplay. “Tell Me Baby” is a solid shuffle and is followed by “Blues For Charlie”, a beautifully played instrumental ballad dedicated to Jeff’s late father. When you buy the CD be sure to read Jeff’s emotional tribute to his Dad which underlines what a fine job he has done with this tribute. The sole cover is Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” which adopts a different approach with a latin-tinged intro with percussion, weeping guitar and a prominent bass line though once the familiar refrain comes in the band follows Hendrix’s approach to the song, including guitars going across your headphones. That should probably have been the finale but there are two bonus tracks, both instrumentals: “Voodoo Funk” and “Southside Blues” do pretty much what the titles suggest but do not add a great deal to the album.
This is a solid album which ranges across blues and other styles, including a couple of noteworthy songs, making it a good listen.