14 tracks; 64 minutes
The debut from Southern California’s Jim Gustin and his band Truth Jones is a well recorded and produced CD that has the sonic qualities of a major label release. Credit for that should go to Terry Wilson who not only produced and played occasional bass, keys and guitars but also brought on board his partner Teresa James on keyboards and vocals.
Other guests include John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick, (once of Free) and Ed Winquest on keys and Jim Scimonetti on horns. The band consists of Jim on guitar and vocals, Jeri Goldenhar and Jessica Baurer on vocals, Burke Greer on bass, Jim Sipotz on drums, Chuck Goldenhar on harp and Chris Baurer on guitar. The combination of all these musicians gives a full sound in support of Jim’s gruff vocals. Jim wrote all the material, sometimes with assistance from other members of the band, apart from one Teresa James/Terry Wilson song.
The CD opens with “I Gotta Sing” on which the churchy organ and electric piano underpin some strong guitar and a good vocal from Jim. The joyous chorus reflects Jim’s Christian faith but the groove here will appeal to listeners of all beliefs. The ecstatic guitar solo captures the mood well. The title track follows, another upbeat tune with a nice guitar riff, though Jim’s deep voice does sound as if it is struggling a little. “No Faith In Forever” is a stand-out track that brings Jeri to the mike on a sultry shared vocal lead over some swirling organ and saxophone. The organ/piano combination works very well on many tracks here and “If God Made Something Better” is a good example, a lovely tribute to Jim’s wife with a foot-tapping groove and excellent keyboard accompaniment.
“Beauty For Ashes” marks a change of style and pace as a dobro introduces a ballad with deeply personal lyrics about the loss of Jim’s son – a moving listen. The longest track on the album, it also features a superb solo from Chris and some excellent backing vocals from the girls. “Why, Why, Why” brings a country feel to proceedings while “Good-Bye” has Jeri on vocals; Chuck’s harp features on both tracks. The style changes again on “My Baby Just Left Me Again” as clarinet, horns and Teresa’s honky tonk piano bring a NO feel to the song. Jeri sings soulfully on “Fill Up My Soul” where the funky wah-wah riff harks back to soul classics of the past.
“You Never Gave Up On Me” is another personal song from Jim, a loving tribute to his Mother which recounts some of Jim’s past in a country-tinged ballad. Things get rockier on “You Answer Me” as Jim sounds pretty down at first but finds that his prayers are always answered. This fine expression of Jim’s faith comes wrapped in wah-wah riffs and a rousing chorus with full-on organ and chorus of backing vocals, plus a great guitar solo. The only cover is “Life Is Hard, Live With It”, a catchy tune with a strong chorus which certainly has some of the style of its co-author Teresa James with the piano well to the fore.
“What Do You See In Me?” offers Jeri a shot at a soulful ballad which she carries off superbly with Chuck’s harp adding a little colour underneath the keys before the album closes on a slice of pure gospel in “Say Amen”, including a very fast closing section.
This is an impressive debut from Jim and his band. He has had a lot of help from producer Terry Wilson and the keyboard talents of Teresa James and Rabbit Bundrick but you can’t deny the talent revealed here. Some of the lyrics here are deeply personal and, in some case, overtly religious but every track sounds great. All should find something to enjoy here.