Jim Diamond Revue – Friends & Family
13 songs; 1 hour, 17 minutes
Blues bands often need to diversify and be nimble to survive. Working in multiple styles of Blues, Rock, R&B, and, forget about the struggle to play original material in the bar scene. But, there are markets of varying size in almost every metropolitan area around the globe for well executed feel-good originally presented music. Jim Diamond & The Groove Syndicate have been supplying this need in their home base of the Ohio/Tennessee Valley, nationally and internationally for almost 3 decades. Their newest album Friends & Family, credited to the Jim Diamond Revue, is a bible of the Groove Syndicate’s multifaceted Blues Rock approach. Equal parts Swing, Shuffle, Southern Rock and psychedelic 60’s San Francisco jam, Diamond and co. are eclectic without being schizophrenic; nostalgic without being stale.
Jim Diamond & The Groove Syndicate are focused around husband/wife team of guitarist, singer, songwriter Jim Diamond and drummer Beth Deminski-Boyington. The Diamonds create a smooth consistent groove throughout Friends & Family with support from their syndicate: Mark Wagner on bass, Jon (Reese) Pleasant on keys, Chris Herndon on guitar and occasional lead vocals and Joe DiGiuseppe on tenor sax. Family members, former band-mates and musical colleagues guest throughout not only contributing instrumental and back up support but also lead vocals and guitar (see list below). The sharing of the lead love creates a real family vibe to this record adding another layer of variety.
The Diamonds swing hard. Tunes like “I’m Cryin’,” “Dog House,” “Hot for You” and “Tight Mini Skirt,” are straight up Jump Blues. The band has a hard charging heft to their swing. Deminski-Boyington has a sharp snare crack that is relentless and linear. Herndon’s rhythm guitar work is chugging and full. Diamond’s playing runs the gambit from smooth and slick a la Duke Robillard’s interpretations of the jump to the more jagged and angular original T-Bone style. More rocking shuffles like “Hi-Dee-Hey, Hi-Dee-Ho” featuring slide guitar from Joe Litteral, and instrumental “Cannonball (Alberta Clipper)” add some deep chugging grit.
The Diamonds also rock hard. Southern Rock ballad “Better Way” has a Black Crows gospel hop that is punctuated by Litteral on lead guitar and tenor sax by Ray Warfield. “See the Light” is just the core band laying it down loud. Diamond plays with sinew-y fire, sustaining and pushing his lines. Deminski-Boyington and Wagner make the rhythm pop with straight ahead crack and punch. Instrumental “Sometime in June” with its Motown horn tag, sounds like a rehearsal take from 1969 Santana. The slinky “Rock ‘n’ Roll All over Me” sounds like an actual outtake from Abraxas.
Friends & Family is a big project. Most songs clock in over 5 minutes and three of them are over 7 minutes! This is okay though. This is not endless noodling or self indulgent rhythmic exercises better suited for the practice room. The long songs hold up and move quickly. Tempos are thoughtfully set to ensure interest but do not rush. This is really hard to do, showing off Beth Deminski-Boyington talent. If there is a critique it is that there is too much material. At 13 tracks there is a lot of music to digest. The music never gets boring and the diversity of style and strength of writing keep it moving, you just need multiple sittings to get through.
Jim Diamond & The Groove Syndicate are a highly professional, creative and entertaining band. You can hear the love and friendship in their music. Friends & Family is a fitting tribute to a career of collaboration and connections.
Friends & Family: Ray Warfield, tenor sax; Ryan Stiles, tenor and baritone sax; Joe Litteral, lead guitar; Nick Mowery, lead guitar; Hank (The Hawk) Mowery, harmonica, vocals; Rob Brown, piano; Rob Wurtele, organ; Bob Ramsey, mellotron