Ricci/Krown – City Country City | Album Review

Ricci/Krown – City Country City

Gulf Coast Records

12 tracks

Jason Ricci and Joe Krown are both New Orleans-based artists and this is their debut duo album, City Country City. Jason Ricci on harp is a multiple Blues Music Award-winner, and organ/piano player Joe Krown is renowned and respected throughout the industry . Here they are teamed up as Ricci/Krown on this brand new CD, City Country City. It is described as, “A retro soul-infused outing that features Jason’s gutsy vocals and stellar harmonica, overlaid with Joe’s melodic and earthy organ playing.” The advertising goes on to say, “City Country City brings back the sound and feel of early 1960s jazz/blues with an original sound all its own.” I can’t say it any better myself!

The trio of performers here are Jason Ricci, who handles the harp and also adds vocals on seven tracks, Joe Krown, who plays piano and Hammond B3 organ, and Doug Belote, who handles the drums. Ricci penned four tracks, Krown wrote another while the other cuts are a pretty wild assortment of really nice and quite interesting covers. Blues, soul, funk and a little NOLA sound are blended together is this superb new CD.

The title track kicks things off. It’s a slick instrumental with loads of glorious harp and funky organ work.  An old track from War’s 1972 album The World Is A Ghetto, Ricci and Krown strip the tune down a bit with just three players but do not lose an ounce of the amazing feel of the original. Sans horns and the rest of the band, this trio still delivers a powerful but shortened version of the cut; less jazzy perhaps, but equally funky and but more bluesy and quite cool. Track two is “Down ‘n Dirty” and more of straight up original blues written by Krown with delightful layers of harp and organ to savor. “Badger The Witness” follows, a sweet, slow, soulful blues with Jason growling and howling as front man and Joe nailing the solo organ. Another nice original track. “My Mama Told Me” is next, a great old Joe Sample funk number from 1976. Krown’s organ and piano work is stellar here and he adds bass line to make this rich and wonderful. Ricci blows some awesome harp that also makes this a truly special sounding cut. Next is “Feel Good Funk,” with Ricci singing his heart out in this upbeat and funky song. “It Starts With Me” is another great original with soulful harp that emulates lead vocals, a pretty and slow number. Ricci plays with deep feeling and Krown’s piano adds to the mood in this somber and soulful cut.

Ricci also wrote “Down At The Juke,” a great song where he sings and plays emotionally and Crown adds his magic. Grant Green’s instrumental “Upshot” from his Carryin’ On album. Replacing Green’s guitar and the sax with wild yet controlled harp and wicked organ including an amazing bass line, this version rocks with amazing soul and funk. Up next is Charles Brown’s “Driftin’ Blues” where Ricci greases up his harp for some savory slow blues licks, Ricci opens with harp and them lays out some nice vocals and Krown adds equally wonderful soloing on organ.  Taj Mahal’s “Jimmy Smith Strut” follows that, where Ricci and Krown offer some more fantastic instrumental work. “Just A Play Boy” mixes verses by Jason, Sonny Boy Williamson II and Don Robey with Ricci fronting the entire effort. It’s a swinging cut with Ricci grinding out the lyrics and Krown playing some great barrelhouse piano. The beat and groove are fantastic as Belote caps off his great work with another standout performance. Ricci, of course, blows some more mean harp. The album concludes with the Bobby Gentry classic “Ode To Billy Joe” where the tone and timber of the album downshift gears as Ricci’s harp emulates Gentry’s vocals. It works and the album draws to a close is a somber yet ultra-cool manner.  The organ punctuates the harp as Krown interjects his stuff between Jason’s blows and then Joe joins in on the lead in a seamless transition as the two share the work. I was wondering how they would pull this off and I loved it.

Ricci contacted Mike Zito about this project; Zito was intrigued and jumped on it. Produced and recorded at Jack Meile Production Studios, this new album on Zito’s Gulf Coast Records is a sure winner and will garner some attention for the next sets of blues music awards. Ricci plays harp as no one can and shows great musicality and even restraint as he showcases his amazing talent. Krown gives us 110% as he demonstrates why Kenny Wayne Shepherd has him in his band and why he is in demand as one of the world’s premier blues and New Orleans organ and keyboard players. Belote is also no slouch and shows us why he is also in demand as a great drummer. This is the real deal and I truly loved it. Go get this one- you will play it again and again!

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