Human Juke Joint Productions/BMI
CD: 12 Songs; 66:45 Minutes
Styles: Blues Rock, Blues Covers, Ensemble Blues
Let’s say there’s a blues festival coming up in a good-sized city. There are a lot of people, especially those who crave live shows, but there’s one big problem. The household-name band scheduled to be the headliner has cancelled at the last minute. Readers, if you were the organizers of such an event, whom would you hire in order to fill the hole in the schedule? Even better, whom would you have hired in the first place?
Consider JR Clark and the Allstar Blues Mob, originating in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Their lead guitarist/vocalist, JR Clark, and organ/piano/keyboard player Willie Styles have joined up with legendary bassist Johnny B. Gayden, from Albert Collins and the Ice Breakers, on their latest album, When It All Comes Down. Finishing out the quartet is drummer and percussionist Jerry “Bam Bam” Porter, who toured with Buddy Guy for 14 years. He also toured with Magic Slim and the Teardrops, Ronnie Baker Brooks, and is currently fresh off tour with the James Cotton Band.
Together, these four have performed at several festivals like South Bend Blues and Ribs Festival at Coveleski Stadium, the Kalamazoo Blues Festival, and several other regional venues in Indiana and Michigan. Here they launch into twelve songs showcasing their high energy level and addictive instrumental prowess. Nine are covers, but these three display their blossoming songwriting skills:
Track 02: “Inner City” – This funky number, with its take-no-prisoners baseline, presents a possibly-perennial scene: “Body laying on the ground; there’s a crowd gathered round. Blood running from his head from a flying, hot piece of lead. Sirens start to howl; it’s a deafening sound. It’s just another day in the inner city. Will it ever change, or will it stay the same?” Clark’s guitar refrain falls into a slight rut, but that underscores the song’s point.
Track 06: “A Little Bit Older” – Who says that one must age gracefully? Not our narrator in this Chicago blues ballad: “I might be getting older, but I’m no less bolder,” he assures everyone – especially the ladies. “I can still make the women a little weak in the knees. I’ve got a whole lot of experience, and I aim to please.” So does Willie Styles on his rollicking piano solo.
Track 08: “Clean Getaway” – Many say that dogs are man’s best friend, but Clark knows the ones in this rocker are his mortal enemies: “I’ve got to make a clean getaway. Hell hound’s on my trail, trying to take me away…He’ll never slow down ‘til he has his prey.” Repentance isn’t easy, however, unlike JR’s hot electric guitar groove.
One other critique of Clark and the Mob’s style is that their vocals run to the talk-singing side, but that’s a minor flaw. “When It All Comes Down,” they know how to play boisterous blues!