Connor Ray Music – 2016
12 tracks; 48 minutes
St Louis native Jeremiah Johnson’s 2015 release Grind was produced by Devon Allman but this time around he has produced himself with help from recording engineer Jason McIntire. Having spent some time in Texas JJ has acquired an interesting blend of styles and diversity is one of the main attractions of the CD as he ranges from blues-rock to shuffles and southern rock, even finding time for some late-night jazzy moments in an all original program. JJ plays guitar and handles lead vocals with his regular bass player Jeff Girardier and drummer Benet Schaeffer but the trio is augmented on most tracks by keyboardist Nathan Hershey and sax player Frank Bauer; Tom ‘Papa’ Ray adds harp to one track.
The album opens with the classic blues-rock of “Mind Reader” which has a strong riff and stirring organ work, also a feature of the bluesier “Room Of Fools” in which JJ’s echoey guitar break gives a nicely retro feel to the track. The title of the album comes from “Flat Line” which features some great bass, subtle use of brushes and jazzy piano/sax to give the platform for a subtle solo from JJ. A fast shuffle “Get It In The Middle” spotlights Nathan’s fast-fingered piano work before “Summertime” (not the Gershwin tune) drops the pace for a blues with Frank’s late-night sax sitting beneath JJ’s vocal as he explains how much he hates winter!
Those who love the Allmans will savour “Skip That Stone” for its “Jessica” meets “Turn On Your Lovelight” riff, the rhythm section setting a great pace over which JJ gives us a strong impression of Dickey Betts, sax and harp adding to the fun – a superb track. Changing things up again JJ gives us some rocking blues with Albert Collins-style guitar on “Talk Too Much”, the sentiments of which must have irritated his girlfriend no end, and the uptempo “Sun Shine Through”.
“Southern Drawl” is mellow Southern rock that namechecks Elvis, Johnny Cash and Lynyrd Skynyrd and has a great solo from JJ, the whole encased in the warm wash of the organ, another winner. Yet another change of style takes us down to Louisiana on the seriously catchy and appropriately titled “Everybody Party”, a good contrast with the ballad “Here We Go Again” which follows, JJ playing some very attractive lead here though his voice is perhaps less well suited to this style. The album closes with a return to the blues-rock style with the chugging rhythm and swirling organ of “It’s Been Hard”.
This is an impressive album from a band with which I was not previously familiar though this is their fifth album. If, like me, you like variety then do seek out this album which repays repeated listening.