Jon Gindick – When We Die, We All Come Back As Music | Album Review

Jon Gindick – When We Die, We All Come Back As Music

Old Chimney Records

10 songs – 43 minutes

The name Jon Gindick may be familiar as one of the world’s leading instructors on playing blues harmonica with a multitude of instruction books and CDs and Blues Jam Camps to his name. If there is any justice in the world, however, with the release of When We Die, We All Come Back As Music, his name will also be known for producing an absolute belter of an album.

When We Die features Gindick on vocals, harp and acoustic guitar together with multi-instrumentalist Ralph Carter on bass, keyboards, guitars, percussion and backing vocals, together with Louie Broussard on drums. A number of guest musicians also contribute, including Chuck Kavooras on slide guitar on a couple of tracks; Brad Rabuchin providing the wah-wah’ed lead guitar on “Maxine”, Ken Stange adding piano and organ on “When We Die”; Bill Bixler on sax and clarinet; Leslie Bixler on backing vocals, Bobby Loya on trumpets and Allan “Big Al” Walker on tenor sax.

Gindick is a very clever songwriter, with an arsenal of tricks that keep the songs interesting, from the whip-smart lyrics of “Maxine” to the key changes in “School”. He is helped by the muscular restraint displayed by the musicians, who set up a variety of subtle grooves that always underpin but never overwhelm the song.  Broussard’s drumming in particular is an object lesson in how to support a song.

It goes without saying that Gindick is a virtuoso harp player with beautiful tone and an ability to weave intoxicating melodies around the songs.  His voice however is a delightful surprise, with some of the wry humour and rough-edges of a Delbert McClinton. The two also share an ability to capture a story in a song.  The closing “Easy Come, Easy Go” is under two minutes long but that is more than enough for Gendick to break your heart with his crying harp.

The title track is perhaps the emotional highpoint of the album.  Starting with just a strummed guitar and Gindick’s voice, Stange’s keys subtly float in the background as the hums of the backing vocalists grow almost imperceptibly. By the second verse, drums, piano, electric guitar and horns are added to create an irresistible wave of joy. “When we die, we all come back as music. What else could we possibly be, but emotional vibrations that sing a special language that in a way in fact expresses life’s deepest mystery.” Glorious stuff.

Although the blues is the foundation stone on which Gindick builds his songs (check out “Wishing Well”), When We Die also features rock (“Mystery”), folk (Bird On A Wire”), funk (“School”) and even the occasional hint of jazz (“Jealous Kind Of Guy”).

When We Die, We All Come Back As Music is a highly enjoyable release from Jon Gindick.  If you like primarily acoustic music, great songs and stellar musicianship, you’ll want to check it out. And the harp players amongst you will also particularly appreciate Gindick noting the key of each song as well as the key of the harp used and the harp position in the track listings.

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