10 tracks / 55:02
Outside of weddings, funerals and hockey games, the organ does not get a lot of love and often only plays a supporting role in music, so it is refreshing to hear what John Ginty has done with his new release, Bad News Travels. His Hammond B3 takes the center stage on this CD and he serves up ten tracks of righteous organ-based blues, rock and funk.
Ginty hails from the northern end of the Garden State, and has been around the block a few times in the last 15 years. He is a master of the keys, and has recorded and performed with high-powered acts, including the Allman Brothers, Carlos Santana, the Dixie Chicks and Matthew Sweet (among others). Along the way he picked up a couple of Grammy nominations as well as a Gospel Music Award for Urban Album of the Year.
For Bad New Travels, John gets writing credit for all of the songs and takes up residence behind the B3 as well as the electric and acoustic pianos. He is joined by Dan Fadel on drums and Paul Kuzik on bass, and a passel of fabulous talent is featured throughout the album. The production quality is very good, thanks to producer Ben Elliott (who has worked with Eric Clapton and Keith Richards), and with almost an hour of content you will certainly get your money’s worth.
The opening track, “The Quirk” features Blues Blast Magazine Award winner Albert Castiglia (Ka-steel-ya), who lends his guitar talents to this smoking hot instrumental. This tune starts out with a funky organ riff and quickly morphs into a burning blues jam with rolling bass and tons of ride cymbal. This is five minutes of fun and Albert and John set the bar high with their massive chops. Castiglia also appears of the next track, “Black Cat,” this time with a soulful vocal performance as well as his guitar. This straight-up blues song is more laid back, and Ginty rolls out a masterful combination of organ and acoustic piano.
Castiglia made the most of his trip to the studio from his home state of Florida, also appearing on “Damage Control,” a 1970s-style funk tune and “Elvis Presley,” a funky blues rocker that poses the age-old question of whether the King is really dead. It was a wise decision for Ginty to bring his old friend onboard for this project, as his charisma, strong vocals and stellar guitar set the tone for the album.
John is not shy about including instrumental jams, with guest guitarist Todd Wolfe appearing on the huge-sounding “Peanut Butter” and Warren Haynes kicking it out on “Mirrors,” the stand-out instrumental on Bad News Travels. This Allman Brothers / Gov’t Mule guitarist is breathtaking as he lays down an impressively reserved and tasteful performance that weaves in and out of the stellar backline of Fadel and Kuzik and the mind-blowing leads of Ginty.
“Seven & the Spirit” is the best track on the album, with another long-time friend Neal Casal on guitar and Brooklyn chanteuse Alecia Chakour on vocals. Her performance is genuine and her soulful voice is a force to be reckoned with, so much so that she was able to push the keyboards into more of a supporting role for the only time on this disc. She is the real deal and this song will probably make you want to seek out more of her work.
Ginty changes throws the listener a curve ball with “Rock Ridge” which includes the fiddle of the Dixie Chicks’ Martie Maguire. It is not possible to describe this instrumental with any one genre, as there is everything from Appalachian and Irish folk music to a little Booker T and the MGs with some Gene Krupa drumming thrown in. It may sound weird when seen on paper, but coming through the speakers this is a pretty darned neat combination of unique elements.
“Trinity” finishes things up, and it features Baltimore axe-slinger Cris Jacobs trading riffs with Ginty. This instrumental starts as fast-paced blues romp and it moves on to include a subtle influence of honky-tonk piano underneath heavy layers of Hammond. It may sound from this review that John Ginty jumps all over the place on this album, but his style and tone ties all ten of the songs together, and it works well when considered as a single entity.
After a few decades of playing the sideman, John Ginty has finally taken a leadership role with Bad News Travels and the spotlight suits him well. This CD is chock full of first-rate talent and fabulous blues-based music, and whether you are a fan of the organ or not it is definitely worth your time to give it a listen!