JP Soars – Southbound I-95 | Album Review

JP Soars – Southbound I-95

Soars High Productions – 2018

15 tracks; 70 minutes

JP Soars is a former winner of the International Blues Challenge and is based in South Florida. On his latest CD he demonstrates what a versatile player he is as the music runs the gamut from blues to rock, country, surf, jazz and Latin. JP plays all manner of guitars and bass on three tracks; Chris Peet is on drums but the absence of a regular bassist finds him also covering bass duties on seven cuts, Jason Newsted and Greg Morency playing on a track each. There are a lot of additional musicians involved: Travis Colby is on keys on seven tracks, Teresa James adds B/Vs to four and Lee Oskar harp to one; horns appear on several tracks, Scott Ankrom playing tenor, baritone and trumpet on two, Sax Gordon Beadle and Tino Barker (tenor and baritone respectively) are also on two and Terry Hanck plays tenor on one. Fellow guitarists Albert Castiglia, Jimmy Thackery and Paul DesLauriers sit in on a track each and percussionists Sam Harrison, Oscar Santiago, Jeremy Staska and Reza Filsoofi appear across six different cuts. JP wrote all the material (apart from two classic blues from Muddy Waters and Albert King) and produced the album with Jeremy Staska in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

JP’s gruff voice fits well with the music and his delivery is very clear on the opening “Ain’t No Dania Beach”, the places he visits while touring not reaching up to his exacting standards as he extols the virtues of his home base in Florida. JP’s guitar has a hint of country as Paul Deslauriers plays some sweet slide, an attractive start to the album. JP hits the wah-wah to add some funk to the blues of “Sure As Hell Ain’t Foolin’ Me” as he detects the insincerity of the other person (“I can smell bullshit a mile away”) before the title track, a rocking surf-style tune with exciting guitar from JP as he looks forward to reaching home. “Shining Through The Dark” is a beautiful tune with Terry Hanck’s ecstatic sax and JP’s lilting guitar adding just a hint of latin feel. Teresa James deserves special mention for her harmony vocals which make a song with cursory lyrics into something special. JP then rocks out on “The Grass Ain’t Always Greener” with Travis Colby’s Rn’R piano and a breathless tenor blast from Sax Gordon. Showing a completely different side to his playing the instrumental “Arkansas Porch Party” finds JP duetting with himself on shimmering electric and acoustic guitars, supported by tambourine and foot stomp. “Satisfy My Soul” is an ultra-fast tune with Sax and Tino supporting the insistent rhythm set by Chris Peet’s drums, JP ripping a solo that sounds like it was culled from a 50’s rock and roll record, an impression reinforced by Sax’s passionate solo. “Born In California” is a song reprised from JP’s debut CD and gives an autobiographical account of his upbringing in rural Arkansas, a full-on blues with plenty of JP’s cigar-box playing.

The two covers appear mid-album and are the cue for the guest guitar slingers. Albert King’s slow blues “When You Walk Out That Door” features Jimmy Thackery; Jimmy and JP both play well with Jimmy taking the first extended solo, JP getting something of Albert’s string-bending style into his. Scott Ankrom’s multi-tracked horns add a different, almost New Orleans, feel to Muddy’s “Deep Down In Florida” as JP and Albert Castiglia exchange vocal verses and guitar solos. The latin-flavored instrumental “Across The Desert” features Lee Oskar’s high-pitched harp and JP’s finger-picking style and serves as something of a break between the two covers and the closing tracks. The fast-fingered guitar work on “Dog Catcher” finds JP having trouble training his pet and playing some fine slide, another track with a hint of latin rhythms while “Troubled Waters” has a North African feel in the middle section with Reza Filsoofi’s array of drums and some eerie sounding guitar from JP, the main choruses of the song carrying a message of ‘peace and understanding’.

The end of the album is a little strange. “Go With The Flow” opens with jungle drums and some more of JP’s fast-paced picking which develops into a gypsy jazz style instrumental, a feel increased by Scott Ankrom’s clarinet. Why JP then chose to add the hidden track of a conversation punctuated by farmyard animals I have no idea!

We then get a radio edit of “Sure As Hell Ain’t Foolin’ Me” which seems little different apart from the potentially offensive word being replaced by “BS” and a clear finale rather than a fade-out. This makes one wonder whether most listeners will eject the CD after track 13!

Nevertheless, there is plenty of fine material here and the CD is very good indeed, so still comes recommended.

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