Rev. John – Strange Things – The Blues According to Rev. John | Album Review

Rev. John – Strange Things – The Blues According to Rev. John

Bluestown Records

11 tracks/46 minutes

Norway’s only “Blues Reverend” returns with a new album of Strange Things – The Blues According to Rev. John. John was an actual pastor who cut his music career short in the 1970s to study theology and do the Lord’s work. Having spent many years in Skein, Norway, he also ventured to Bogota, Colombia to rehabilitate addicts and  talk to drug lords in the cartels. This is where he discovered the blues. He returned to Skein in Telmark county and became part of the blues community there.

John Ultveldt is Rev. John; he plays keys and sings. Trond Ytterbo and  Tobias Flottorp Heltzer handle the guitars. Heltzer also plays bass and is one of the backing vocalists. Arne Steinar Myrvang is on drums and percussion. And also does backing vocals. Ytterbo is the other backing vocalist. There are six original tunes written by Rev. John, one Dylan song, one Eric Bibb tune and the others are traditional pieces.

“The Devil’s Music” begins the set. Solid B3 organ by the Rev is featured here. He sings with a haunting style and accent. “In Love With The Blues” is next, a shuffle that is a cool song with a great groove. Organa and guitar solos  are solid and well done. “Out Of Time” is a bouncing and jumping song with more sweet organ and guitar work. These first songs are all originals.

Up next is “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” a tune with a heavy beat and steady guitar, piano and B3. A traditional cut, John does a nice job with it. The original “Visit Chicago” is another haunting tune with organ, stinging guitar and a bit of funkiness to it. “Strange Things” follows, another traditional cover that bounces, jumps and jives. A big piano solo is included here as the band replies to the Rev’s calls.

“Saving Grace” is the Bob Dylan cover, a somber and solemn piece that the organ takes us to church on.  The next tow are originals, “The Robber” and “You Can’t Sing.” The former is a commentary on global warming while the latter is a cut about how he must go on and sing on to get his blues word out.

Eric Bibb’s “Don’t Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down” is next, a slow and thoughtful piece with some restrained harp added and, of course, nicely done organ and guitar. The Gospel cut “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” concludes the album. Slide guitar, organ, and piano again take us to church. John sings with feeling.

Rev. John has now released five albums under his name since 2002. He and his band are a mix of experienced and younger musicians from Notodden, Norway, who are tight and do an exceptional job together musically. John’s vocals have a lilting accent and he uses some processing here and there to mix things up. John mixes up his spirituality and music to deliver eleven interesting and well crafted cuts. If you are looking for something a little off the beaten path, then this might be your cup of tea.

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