Orphan Jon and the Abandoned – Abandoned No More
Rip Cat Records – March 2018
12 songs – 55:39
“Orphan” Jon English resides in Ventura on the central coast of California. Orphaned at an early age with his three older brothers, English bounced around for years in the California social services system, and was shunted to foster homes and orphanages until finally being adopted at the age of 10. Unfortunately, that adoption proved to be not much of an improvement, but it did introduce him to popular music, which would become a source of calm and inspiration in his life. Fast forward several years, through work, church, a family, a divorce, and yet another family, Jon continued to enjoy music, frequently singing in his church.
Finally, in 2009, after reconnecting with some high school friends at a local karaoke bar, Jon was encouraged to take his love for music – and singing, in particular – and do something more with it. He began frequenting local jam sessions, eventually putting together his first band, English Revolver, which performed from 2012 to 2014. Connections that English had made at the local jams eventually led him to guitarist Bruce Krupnik (late of the Strata-Tones), and the two began collaborating on music together. The resulting collaboration, “Orphan Jon and the Abandoned”, can be heard on “Abandoned No More,” and it is more than worth a listen.
Featuring English on vocals; Krupnik on guitar; Tony Jack Grigsby on bass; and Stan Whiting on drums, this collection was produced by Barry Levenson and recorded at Pacifica Recording Studios. Guest artists include Levenson, Johnny Main, JR Lozano, Mike Malone, Mike Sandberg, and Hank Van Sickle. All of the songs were written by English and Krupnik, with the exception of “Memories of Me and You,” which has an additional contribution by English’s wife, Carrie.
Overall, the song selection gives the album a bit of a southern rock or blues rock feel to it, with several groove-heavy vamps on a single chord. Stan Whiting’s straight-ahead drumming seems to underscore this influence. There’s a lot of interesting layering of guitar tracks, and guitarist Krupnik favors a slightly distorted tone for most of the CD, and more than a little tremolo. He is a superb player, and his slide work, in particular, is reminiscent of “Sticky Fingers”-era Mick Taylor… and there’s nothing wrong with that! Not having previously been familiar with Krupnik, I checked out some YouTube videos of him with the Strata-Tones, and let me tell you, the man can play! It would appear that Krupnick has clearly adapted his songwriting and playing to more closely match English’s lyrics and vocal style.
The first track, “Backbone” is a rollicking number with a propulsive beat and some great, gritty slide guitar from Krupnik. The second track, “Blood Moon,” has a swampy, New Orleans vibe to it, with a droning guitar figure just dripping with tremolo. The third track, “Dance for Me Girl,” continues the straight-ahead rock-style drumming that appears in many of the tracks. One of my favorites, “Vicious Circle,” is a Jimmy Reed-ish number that chugs along and you can’t help but tap your feet in time to the music. Another favorite track is “Leave My Blues Alone,” which called to mind Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac. Great song, but at 10:43, it’s a bit too long, probably by half.
All in all, it’s a very listenable album, and there are more than a couple of great-sounding tunes on here. Krupnick’s guitar work is great, and English’s vocals are sincere and passionate, if somewhat limited. The songwriting itself seems a bit constrained, with a little too many single-chord vamp, and lyrics that are perhaps a bit too literal. That said, based on this collection, I’m looking forward to hearing what their next outing has in store for us.