Lew Jetton & 61 South – Rain | Album Review

lewjettoncdLew Jetton & 61 South – Rain

Coffee Street Records

10 songs – 38 minutes


Lew Jetton & 61 South are a tight, veteran six-piece band that been a regional favorite from their home base in Paducah, Ky., delivering what they call “Southern fried Chicago blues.”

A guitar band whose unique sound is hard to define because it melds the Windy City with blue-eyed soul, they’re led by Jetton on guitar and vocals and assisted by a stellar group of guest artists on Rain as they eagerly attack eight originals and two covers with plenty of feel. It’s good-time music that’s been pleasing audiences at clubs and festivals alike since the early ’90s.

Released in 2000, Jetton’s first CD, State Line Blues, was tabbed by Real Blues Magazine as the fourth best independent album of the year. A follow-up, Tales From A 2-Lane, was the 2006 Kentucky Blues Society album of the year and a top-five hit on XM Radio.

Jetton’s backed here by his regular lineup of Sam Moore on guitar, Dan Bell on keyboards as guitar, Otis Walker and James Sullivan on bass and Erik Eicholtz on drums. They’re augmented by guest appearances by guitarist Alonzo Pennington, a two-time International Thumbpicking Champion as well as an International Blues Challenge semi-finalist; keyboard player Solon Smith, a longtime member of guitar legend Johnny Hiland’s band; Miranda Louise, former backup singer for Lonnie Mack; and J.D. Wilkes, harmonica player for the rockabilly band, Legendary Shack Shakers. And the Rev. JoAnn Green adds to the mix through a clip from her longtime gospel radio show, Words To Ponder.

The theme of inclement weather runs strongly through this album, which kicks off with an interesting and different take on cheating. The sound of an instant phone message introduces “Who’s Texting You,” a straight-ahead blues with lyrics that recognize the speed of the lady’s fingers as she responds and demands: “Gimme that phone or we’re gonna fight.” The burning mid-tune solo amplifies the threat.

The theme of separation continues with “Move On Yvonne,” a loping, stop-time blues that features vocal contributions from Louise and tasty solos from Wilkes and Smith. The blues-rocker “Mississippi Rain” follows and compares the feeling you get from a drenching to the thunderclap of realization you get when you discover the real truth about a troubling situation.

The mood brightens “Lay Me Down,” a sweet Southern rocker, about taking a nap on the river bank to dream about summer and a special lady, his soul to keep. The brief “Glory Train,” a rapid-paced country gospel number features some fine picking and precedes a slow-paced cover of John Hiatt’s “Feels Like Rain.” You can almost feel the weight of a sticky summer night in the Mid-South as the song progresses.

The Southern rocker “Done It All” provides welcome relief from the showers as Jetton’s warm baritone sings about falling in love with a lady who’s “sweeter than a candy store” before the slow shuffle “Sandy Lee” features more fine work on the keyboards as Lew describes “the kind of woman every man wanna see/The kinda woman who bring my money here to me.” Whether it’s really his is a matter of question, but she keeps paying his rent nonetheless. Another blues-rocker, “Keeping Me Awake,” deals with relationship problems and late-night demands for discussion before a great cover of Allen Toussaint’s “It’s Raining” brings the set to a close.

Available from CDBaby, Amazon, iTunes or directly from the band through www.LewJettonMusic.com, Rain is a pleasant taste of Americana that provides some truly original tunes and musicianship that’s first-rate, especially if you like your blues Southern fried and with the slightest of twangs, too.

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