John Ginty featuring Aster Pheonyx – Rockers | Album Review

John Ginty Featuring Aster Pheonyx – Rockers

American Showplace Music ASM1376

12 songs – 51 minutes

New Jersey-based John Ginty is one of the most in-demand sidemen and electrifying keyboard players on the planet, and he demonstrates it once again as he teams with vocalist Aster Pheonyx for his third solo album.

As the title implies, this one’s more rock slanted than his two 2015 releases, Bad News Travels Live, which garnered Ginty a Blues Blast Music Award nomination, or No Filter, which garnered Roots Music Report’s blues-rock album of the year. But it does contain enough blues- and soul-rooted music to keep fans interested.

John’s background is nothing short of diverse. He’s spent years backing a plethora of talent across the music spectrum, including stints with Jewel, Carlos Santana, sacred steel sensation Robert Randolph, hip-hop star Redman and world tours with the Dixie Chicks, among others.

Pheonyx is a multi-instrumentalist who started out as a keyboard player, but was fronting her own band in her hometown of Asbury Park, N.J., and had released two albums of her own when she and Ginty met at the famed Wonder Bar, where he was appearing to promote No Filter and she was serving as his opening act. They jammed backstage, and John invited her to sit in. That performance was so magical that he asked her to join his band as lead vocalist. This all-original, 12-song CD is the result.

It features Ginty on Hammond organ, vintage vibe piano, melodica and percussion and Pheonyx on acoustic guitar. They’re backed by the sensational Justine Gardner on bass, Maurice “mOe” Watson on drums and backing vocals with assists from guitarists Mike Buckman, Jimmy Bennett, and Josh Gannet and bass player Paul Kuzik. Redman, aka Reggie Noble, provides spoken words on one number.

Gardner kicks off “The Shark” with a solitary bass line before the rhythm picks up and Ginty soars on the B-3. It’s a bluesy, soulful instrumental that puts John’s electrifying skills on display. Pheonyx’s earthy alto comes to the fore for “Lucky 13,” a rapid-fire, hard-edged rocker with some psychedelic overtones about an actress who “needs to do a hit” before portraying a casualty of war, the role of a lifetime.

The funky “Believe In Smoke” follows, aided by another solid run at the bottom of the scale. Aster delivers it with plenty of attitude. Listeners get an aural break for “Target On The Ground” as the music slows and quiets and Pheonyx’s delivery turns soulful for a song with deep spiritual overtones. The feel continues and the pace quickens slightly for “Captain Hook.” It urges the superior to assess what’s an unspoken, but tenuous military situation.

Ginty turns to the piano for a stop-time introduction to “Mountains Have My Name,” another soulful number, this one about a woman who doesn’t believe in growing old, before he reverts to organ for the propulsive “Mr. Blues,” about an award-winning, critical and demanding authority who wants “to give the rockers the door.”

Next up is “WKYA,” a spoken, 60-second skit that features Redman. It’s akin to a Firesign Theatre skit from the ’70s and deals with a druggie deejay interviewing an artist during his appearance at a radio station. The music softens again for the ballad “Priscilla” with Ginty soloing on melodica before the band’s in full-force strut for the rocker “Electric.” Aster shows a sultry, jazzy side for “Maybe If You Catch Me” before the disc ends with the title tune, “Rockers,” another instrumental.

Available through most major retailers, Rockers contains plenty of blues-flavored rock and soul for folks with open minds and open ears. While not a true blues album, it’s rock solid with outstanding musicianship on display throughout. If your listening habits include rock, you’ll definitely like this one. And if they don’t, you’ll probably find plenty here that you like, too.

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