Johnny Max Band – Forty-Nine Minutes | Album Review

johnnymaxbandJohnny Max Band – Forty-Nine Minutes (Of the Best We Have)

Poor Soul Records/MAPL 

CD: 12 Songs; 49:17 Minutes

Styles: Soul-Influenced Blues, Blues Rock

What goes into the making of a greatest-hits compilation?

How do musicians decide which songs make the cut, and which go on the cutting room floor? Do they choose tracks that they themselves consider personal bests, or crowd favorites?

In the case of Canada’s Johnny Max Band, they present twelve hits from drawing from previous albums, totaling “Forty-Nine Minutes of the Best We Have.” Even though their promotional info sheet says that “Max’s style borrows more from R and B found south of the Mason-Dixon line than it does from traditional blues,” purists shouldn’t automatically punt this CD out of bounds. It has more than enough energy to pep up any partygoers, but where JMB really shines is in its songwriting skills. In fact, the opener “Daddy’s Little Girl”, originally from their 2010 release It’s a Long Road won the International Songwriting Competition Blues Song of the Year.

This extensive ensemble consists of Johnny Max on vocals, bassists Wayne Deadder, Garth Vogan, and Uli Bohnet, keyboardists Martin Aucoin and Jesse O’Brien, guitarists Deadder, Kevin Higgins, John Findlay, and Ted Leonard, drummers Vince Maccarone and Duncan McBain, and Quisha Wint and Virgil Scott on background vocals. They also have a horn section: saxophonist Jon Johnson, Gord Meyers on trombone, and Steve Crowe on trumpet. All twelve selections on “Forty-Nine Minutes” are originals written by Johnny Max (John McAneney) and collaborators. The three below are all worth a slot on jukebox and radio playlists:

Track 01: “Daddy’s Little Girl” – This perky New Orleans-style number is about a common blues pitfall: a woman in a “short, short miniskirt with legs up to the sky” – and a gold-digger’s heart. “She smiles at me most every day, because I was prepared to pay,” our narrator sings, listing several expensive objects afterwards. All of the instrumentation here is in top form, from Aucoin’s piano keyboards to Jon Johnson’s smoking saxophone.

Track 05: “Song of New York” – It may be a pensive ballad and one of the least blues-sounding songs on the album, but it definitely has the best lyrics. Describing a great American city with parts gone to seed, this song’s best section is also its grimmest: “In lower Manhattan, some pain still remains and drowns in the tears, three thousand names. The stockbrokers are broken; the tourists, they just stare, while the native New Yorkers pretend it’s not there. There’s something that happened on that fateful day – the city got stronger. That’s why I say this is a song of New York.”

Track 12: “Waiting On You” – Another big-band beauty, the album’s closer will get the juke joint jumping. With bongo drums and a bouncy beat, it’s the perfect mix of blues and soul. Quisha Wint and Virgil Scott provide fiery background vocals, and Findlay’s guitar solo sizzles.

This is “Forty-Nine Minutes” of funky fun!

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