12 tracks / 41:18
There is plenty of soulful Americana music to be found in Mississippi, and the Jericho Road Show delivers their own take on this unique sound with plenty of gusto in their new CD, Times Ain’t Like They Used to Be. This collection of twelve classic and original tunes is a marvelous sampler of Southern folk and blues that is delivered by some of the best in the business.
The Jericho Road Show is sort of a roots and blues super group that was founded by Rambling Steve Gardiner. He grew up near Pocahontas, Mississippi, but has called Tokyo his home since 1980, and he has been charged by the US State Department to spread the good news of American music in Japanese schools and universities. Steve produced this album and the other core members of the crew are Libby Rae Watson (of the Liberaetors and a 2015 IBC finalist), Wes Lee (of Blue Roux), and Bill Steber (of the Jake Leg Stompers and Hoodoo Men). There is more than enough experience to be found here as they are all seasoned professionals, and they have put out over 20 CDs between them. A few of their friends joined in on this recording too, as you will see in a bit.
There are a lot of shared roles on this disc, with each member taking turns on lead vocals and guitars. First up, we get to hear Steve Gardner on vocals with the traditional tune, “What’s the Matter with the Mill.” This song is a great example of what you are going to hear throughout the album: it has a live feel, but a crystal clear sound with excellent mixing and production values. Gardner’s vocals are throaty, the backing vocals are enthusiastic, and there is sweet guitar picking and nice harp work on this folk blues tune. Making it just a bit more fun, the bottom end is held down by some cool tuba playing from Brandon Armstrong.
After a slightly more complex take on Robert Johnson’s “Stones in my Passway,” the band launches into a toe-tapping rendition of Bo Carter’s “Whiskey Blues,” this time with Libby Rae Watson up front. Her pleasing alto vocals are delivered perfectly with nice interplay from Gardner’s harmonica. Guest artists include Nick Vitter on bass drum and Chaz Leary with his washboard, which is just perfect for this song: “I got the washboard, you got the tub, gonna stick them together, gotta rub, rub, rub!”
There are only a few originals to be found on this disc. One is “Gray Sky Blues” from Wes Lee and the other is “Shake it Loose” by Bill Steber, who also provided the soulful lead vocals, guitar, and harmonica for this track. Though this song is one of the newest ones on Times Ain’t Like They Used to Be, it fits in well with the rest of the vintage material, and it is very well written. Libby Rae chips in with spot-in vocal harmonies and Leary again provides the percussion with his washboard.
After around 40 minutes of pure fun, Wes Lee ends the set with one last traditional, “You Got to Move,” which is chock-full of his marvelous resonator guitar playing and his Clapton-esque vocals. This song is the essence of Southern blues with its bare-bones instrumentation of Delta guitar, vocals, hand percussion, and bass drum. A nice twist is the fresh gospel call and response at the end with the other members of the Jericho Road Show.
If you like acoustic roots, blues, and folk music, then you will love what the Jericho Road Show put together for Times Ain’t Like They Used to Be. It has a fun and informal vibe, but still delivers first-rate musicianship, and it would certainly be a worthwhile addition to your collection. Plus, now is the time to see their live show as the band is touring the United States this summer. So, catch them while you can – they make their homes all over the place, and who knows when they will be able to get together again!