Kevin Conlon and The Groove Rebellion – Going Back To Chicago | Album Review

kevinconloncdKevin Conlon and The Groove Rebellion – Going Back To Chicago

Blujazz BJ3429

8 songs – 34 minutes

San Francisco-based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Kevin Conlon returns to his Chicago roots with this thoroughly modern and funky excursion into jazz and blues.

An upright bass player, guitarist and percussionist, he migrated from the Windy City, where he was a familiar face on the blues scene, to Los Angeles in the early 1980s as part of the jazz fusion group Panacea before moving north to the Bay Area later in the decade, where he laid down the groove in jazz and R&B ensembles.

This is the second release for The Groove Rebellion. The first, the well-received In Transit, featured a four-piece ensemble with rotating drummers playing a set of Conlon originals that leaded more toward straight-ahead jazz with blues overtones layered atop a heavy beat. The lineup changed dramatically for this one, which shifts the delivery in more of a modern blues vein.

Another all-original, Conlon-penned production, it features Robert Wilkinson on guitar, Sasha Smith on keyboards, Aux Cayes on Hammond B-3 organ and Amanda Jackson on backing vocals. Drummer Richard Cunico and sax player Mark Secosh are also present from Groove Rebellion’s original lineup.

Like the energy you’d feel at the L stop at State and Lake, which are depicted on the album cover, “The Hustler” kicks off with a syncopated shuffle beat and horn intro before Conlon delivers a string of image-packed lyrics that speak against being offered for sale on the street that he has no interest in buying as well as advertisements for pharmaceutical drugs he really doesn’t need to take. His vocal delivery is relaxed and slightly behind the beat. Wilkinson’s six-string solo mid-song is brief, but tasty, and the band swings throughout.

“Temptation” offers a strong taste a Chicago from the first guitar riff as Conlon sings about a woman he can’t get out of his mind after a brief encounter. He wants to make his move, but knows it could cost him his life. Cayes’ B-3 solo drives the tune to a higher level. Next up, the title cut, “Going Back To Chicago,” is a stop-time excursion with a thoroughly modern feel propelled by Wilkinson’s guitar. On his lyrical return, Conlon’s accompanied by a pistol and gunning for a cousin who not only stole his woman, but also took his last dime.

The pace slows for “One Question,” a slow blues that begins as a telephone discussion with a doctor, but evolves into a parable about problems in a relationship. The woman shows up on the singer’s birthday and tells him she’s leaving with no forwarding address. Talk about a bad case of the blues! The music gets funky again with “She’s Got The Shake,” a horn- and guitar-fueled blues about wanting to make a romantic move, but holding back because she’s got so much going on.

The rhythms remain rich for “Voodoo,” another stop-time romp about another woman, and the subdued “Muddy Water,” a cautionary, true-blue warning about the threat of losing your way by going places you shouldn’t, before the uptempo “Well Gone Dry” concludes the set, delivering questions about the possible end of a romance.

Available through all of the major online vendors, this is a well-presented mix of bluesy R&B with some jazz overtones, and would be perfectly comfortable at either a blues joint on Chicago’s North Side or at a jazz palace like the legendary Green Mill. Highly recommended for any blues lover with a taste for something different.

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