Justin Saladino Band – JSB LIVE | Album Review

Justin Saladino Band – JSB LIVE

MAPL/BROS/SODEC Quebec

www.justinsaladinoband.com

CD: 11 Songs, 61 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Live Album

One of the pleasures I’ve sorely missed this year is live music. It has a different atmosphere than a studio album, a more daredevil, freewheeling vibe. Artists can spend hundreds of hours editing and perfecting studio releases. While LIVE, they only have one chance to get it right. Therefore,  Montreal’s Justin Saladino Band holds nothing back in showcasing their talents: smooth, heartfelt vocals from its leading man, dynamite instrumentation, on-point lyrics, and a passionate stage presence one can hear if not see in person. As determined from the photo on the inside of their CD jacket, the musicians skew toward the younger/Millennial side of the blues-rock scene. Nevertheless, all ages will enjoy the eleven tunes presented here (ten originals and one cover). There’s something for everyone: catchy mid-tempo rockers such as the first three numbers, mellow ballads like “All You Ever Need” and “Peace With You,” even a Hendrix-style shredder, “Purple Girl.” Saladino and his Quebecois compatriots entertain for over an hour in top form.

JSB LIVE was recorded over two nights in front of an audience of loyal fans at Quebec’s largest recording facility, Piccolo Studios. “Six musicians, two shows and eleven songs….I’m proud of that,” says Justin fondly. With the addition of an electric take on Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How It Feels” (the one cover), JSB Live delivers a diverse setlist of the band’s history to date.

In 2018, the 21st annual Maple Blues Awards nominated the group for New Artist of the Year in Canada. The following year, Blues and Roots Radio acknowledged JSB’s country-crossover tune, “Third Week Of June,” as 2018 Song of the Year under the group category. The band was also selected to represent Quebec and compete with over 200 other acts from around the world at the 2019 International Blues Challenge in Memphis Tennessee, hosted by The Blues Foundation.

Performing alongside Justin Saladino (vocals and guitars) are Antoine Loiselle on guitars; David Osei-Afrifa on keys; Denis Paquin on drums and vocals; Gabriel Forget on bass and vocals, and Lucie Martel on vocals and percussion.

Surprisingly, the album’s centerpiece is a contemplative one, “Put the Hammer Down,” about one’s propensity to judge one’s fellow man: “Everybody suffers; everybody cries. Not all of us wonder if we’re the reason why. I’ve met so many other people in my life…I’ve put the hammer down on others, and that ain’t right.” With melodic instrumentation backing Saladino up, such a confessional should be a required theme song for social media. Why are we collectively quick to sum other people and their lives up with hurtful labels, catchphrases and memes? Why can’t we give each other the benefit of the doubt instead of the business end of our proverbial hammer? The solo in the middle pounds this point home subtly, beautifully, without getting in your face.

On the other end of the musical and topical spectrum is “Irish Bordello, a hard-driving rocker perfect for drinking instead of thinking. Methinks the crowd especially loved this one. It gets one’s blood pumping and heart thumping. It should also top the Billboard blues-rock charts.

In the days before COVID, LIVE music was grand. Give it up for the Justin Saladino Band!

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