9 Tracks; 42 minutes
Jimmy J Pinchak has talent. He can play guitar and sing, plus he’s also an actor with some pretty good film and TV credits (appearing with Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis), and he’s 20 years old. Other than that, I have nothing against him.
Seriously, though, it’s great to see young guys coming into the blues and it’s clear from the opening hits and soaring harp note kicking off “Murder”, the first track, that young Mr. Pinchak feels his music. It’s in the growl and style he sings with. He has excellent expression and phrasing.
He is also backed by a very solid band, from the tight rhythm section of Melvin Brannon on bass and David Daniel Diaz on drums, and especially outstanding piano from Gary Swann who accentuates the music with great fills but never gets in the way of the vocals or the song. There is also a terrific harp player on this cut, but he is uncredited – so he’s either a studio musician or he’s a top player doing a favor. He appears later on the CD as well.
Of the eight tracks on the CD, Pinchak wrote six, quite an achievement for someone his age. His guitar style also tends toward a “less is more” ethos, which is very, very refreshing in this day of screaming guitar slingers who only have two volumes, “Deafening” and “Are Your Ears Bleeding Yet?”
The second track, “Hit My Stride” is a hard driving blues rock number with hints of George Thorogood and Edgar Winter. Great Hammond work from Gary Swann and also from Brannon on bass.
Just when it seemed like the CD was going to become entirely blues rock, Pinchak brings it back to pure blues with a solo dobro guitar version of “Crossroads”. Yes, of Robert Johnson and Cream fame. That takes chutzpah, but he pulls it off.
After another good rocker, Pinchak brings it way, way down with a classic slow, electric blues. “Poison” is a really terrific minimalist arrangement with piano, guitar and harp taking turns supplying some really sweet fills. Pinchak also does a very nice solo, again adhering to “less is more”, so the song has lots of air and lots of places to breathe. Although it is amusing to hear a 20-year-old lament “I used to be a bad man – nine years in the pen for armed robbery,” a strong vocal performance gives the lyric some weight.
Pinchak does a very nice job on the Willie Dixon classic “I Can’t Stop” with excellent guitar fills, supported by Swann’s buoyant Hammond. Pinchak maintains a true blues tone on his solos, and that unsung harpist adds just what a Chicago blues tune needs.
What I really like about Pinchak is his commitment to blues music. Not content with just doing “Crossroads” as a solo acoustic tune, he performs his own “Poor One” and “Stuck In Glue” with just voice and acoustic guitar. This shows a respect for the blues men and women who came before; who created, arguably, America’s first musical art form. This depth of respect is rare today, especially in one so young.
I also like that he is a guitar player who doesn’t feel the need to make his CD all about the guitar. On “Best I Could” he lets the piano again have its moments and introduces a really cool trumpet, sometimes muted, sometimes full voice that serves the music wonderfully. This is a band, not a lead instrumentalist with the sidemen there just to play behind endless solos.
As Pinchak is young, there are some youthful rough edges. His voice, which is already good, is only going to acquire gravitas as the young man acquires life experience, which that bodes very well for future efforts. It is rare for actors/musicians to succeed in both careers (Bruce Willis anyone?). I hope Pinchak can do it. If not, I hope he chooses music. He’s got something.