Juke Joint Jonny and the Kindred Spirits – Just Folkin Around | Album Review

Juke Joint Jonny and the Kindred Spirits – Just Folkin Around    


CD: 12 Songs, 44 Minutes

Styles: Blues Covers, Folk, Acoustic Blues, Best of 2022

Don’t judge a cover by its cover. The correct fourth word is book, but hear me out. As blues fans, we’ve heard countless versions of Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” “Walkin’ Blues” by Son House, and “Fishin’ Blues” by Taj Mahal. Veterans will also be familiar with “Blow Wind Blow,” “(You Need Meat) Don’t Go No Further,” and “Dust My Broom.” They’re classics. Yet they CAN BE like overplayed, overrated, over-danced songs at weddings: “Macarena,” “The Chicken Dance,” “Shout” and “YMCA.” Got anything new for us, DJ?

Juke Joint Jonny and the Kindred Spirits do, although eleven out of twelve songs on their newest album are covers. They’re not Just Folkin Around. They’re more than the real deal,. Like Jules Verne’s protagonists in Journey to the Center of the Earth, they take a journey to the center of the genre: its thrumming core. It resonates with a magnetism we all can feel, in our bones and in our hearts. This CD reminds me why I fell in love with the blues in the first place. Each note, each vocalized lyric, is raw and unrefined – yet more beautiful than any polished gemstone. Not a lick or riff is out of place. Every facet is how it should be, how it’s meant and destined to be.

Accompanying our hero (guitars and vocals) are Steve Rusin (harp and guitar for track seven), producer Ben Bernstein on stand-up bass and bass drum for track six), Dave Peterson (electric bass for tracks six and ten), and Mike Stevens on drums, percussion and jaw harp.

Before I plumb the depths of my favorite cover, I’d like to discuss the sole original: lucky number seven, “Terre Haute Blues.” It’s a jaunty acoustic stroll down the streets of one of Indiana’s biggest cities, but our narrator wants to put on his “walking shoes” and get out of there. It showcases our leading man’s raspy vocals, more akin to Eric Bibb’s than Rod Stewart’s. You’d never catch Juke Joint crooning “Maggie May.” If you can’t understand the lyrics, which run at a pretty fast clip, have some fun playing air guitar. It’s also suitable for a jitterbug.

Now for the real stunner – a postmodern rendition of Leo Kottke’s poignant instrumental “Sailor’s Grave on the Prairie.” When I saw this title, I said: “Wait, what? Sailors travel over seas and oceans, not plains.” Then I remembered history class and the Oregon Trail. Covered wagons were often called “prairie schooners.” Their plain appearance disguised their ingenuity. They were uniquely designed for the hardships and rough terrain of intercontinental travel in the 1800s. Many an American pioneer, a prairie sailor, met their end before they reached the end.  This homage is pure 2020s techno-slide, though. Don’t let it faze you. Listen. Learn. Love.

How good is this CD? Near-perfect. How necessary is it? Essential. How uplifting is it? I hate housework, but it made me want to spend hours tackling gross chores instead of Just Folkin Around. That is how much I, and you, need to purchase this masterpiece and loop it. For days.

Allow Juke Joint Jonny and his band to become Kindred Spirits to you. They certainly are to me.

And I’ve never heard them before.

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