Soars High Productions – 2014
14 tracks; 57 minutes
Former IBC winner JP Soars returns with his third solo CD and it maintains the standard of his earlier releases, combining some energetic ‘rough stuff’ on cigar box guitar, reinterpretations of classic blues and a touch of JP’s other outlet for his boundless energy – gypsy jazz guitar. There are two covers alongside twelve originals here and the core band of JP on all manner of guitars, Chris Peet on drums and Todd Edmunds on bass demonstrate a complete mastery of all the different styles.
Along for the ride are Memphis harp player Brandon Santini on two cuts, saxman Terry Hanck on one cut, a two man horn section of Scott Ankrom on baritone and clarinet and Chaim Rubinov on trumpet on two more cuts, Hammond player Mark Leach on three tracks and percussionist Raul Hernandez on two tracks. Single appearances are also made by Teresa James on second vocal, Pat Ward, Allie Balducci and Joseph Bloom, backing vocals and Steve Laudicina on guitar.
The album opens strongly with JP’s cigar box slide combining with Brandon Santini’s keening harp, JP’s raspy voice singing of life on the road and, in particular, his win at the IBC’s: “…appreciate the good times and try not to worry too much”. Up next is “Back To Broke”, a catchy good time tune, JP on electric guitar double-tracked over his gentle wah-wah rhythm track and the organ providing good support.
“Makes No Sense” uses some almost Hawaiian guitar (another of JP’s old interests) figures on a smoky, late night ballad. JP’s world-weary voice fits this one really well and the upright bass gives a warm feeling to the trio on this one. Added percussion helps to raise the pace on the churning rocker “Somethin’ Ain’t Right” before the first cover appears.
On the previous album JP did an excellent version of “The Hustle Is On” and this time he does a sterling version of T Bone Walker’s “Mean Old World”, demonstrating his ability to handle the classics just as well as his own material. “Savin’ All My Lovin’” is a solid mid-paced blues in which JP tells us that his days of running around are over, he’s found his destination in this girl! A second cover in “Reefer Man” takes us back to the days of Cab Calloway (for whom the song was originally written), the horns adding to the frenetic pace of the version which is terrific; JP and sax player Scott exchange solo verses in fine style.
The rest of the album is all original. JP takes us back to the country with some down home cigar box work on “Way Back Home”, his gravelly vocal telling us about his upbringing. “The Back Room” opens with some light, jazzy chords before the main theme chugs in with organ support to tell us all about JP’s ‘home’ venue, Boca Raton’s Back Room: “Now it don’t matter what you’re wearing as folks don’t seem to care ‘cos we’re all here to have a good time” – sounds like my sort of venue! JP’s storming solo here is the icing on this particular cake.
The organ stays on board for “Thorn In My Side” but it’s a totally different type of song, almost Southern Rock in its quiet intro and JP’s great dobro playing – another example of JP’s ability to vary the material he plays. “Viper” brings in JP’s acoustic playing with a touch of Django Reinhardt and the 20’s feel is continued with the warm double bass, clarinet and muted trumpet. However, that warm feeling engendered by the music is belied by the lyrics which proclaim that the girl is not what she seems but “a snake in the grass”.
For the final three tracks JP seems determined to demonstrate his versatility. First “The Road Has Got Me Down” turns out to be a country lane as Teresa James joins in on vocals and JP uses pedal steel to evoke classic country music, Brandon Sanitini showing us a very different side to his harp abilities from the opening track. “Lil’ Mamacita” is an instrumental with JP playing in lovely latin style on acoustic, the percussion from Raul Hernandez adding to the Spanish feel.
Finally “Missin’ Your Kissin’” is a swing number with Terry Hanck’s sax to the fore, JP bemoaning life on the road away from his loved one: “I can’t wait to get back across the Atlantic. I like it over here, don’t get me wrong, but I need a little sunshine to keep me warm.” JP’s storming solo is very much in BB King mode here and Terry blows the roof off with his solo to close the album on a very high note.
JP Soars is also very much part of Southern Hospitality with Damon Fowler and Victor Wainwright but his solo output is well worth checking out. The last CD “More Bees With Honey” was excellent and earned a nomination for the Blues Blast Contemporary Album Award in 2011; if anything this one is even better!