The Mary Jo Curry Band – Front Porch
11 songs – 44 minutes
Based out of Springfield, Ill., songbird Mary Jo Curry made such a positive impact with her self-titled 2016 debut album that a host of top-flight blues artist friends – including Albert Castiglia and Tom Holland and Andrew Duncanson – all wondered why she didn’t enlist them for the project.
One listen to this stellar follow-up with all three on board will definitely show you why: Mary Jo is a powerhouse vocalist with a distinctively different, honey-sweet attack who conveys the depths of emotion with each breath as she delivers modern tunes steeped with traditional feel.
A voice and musical theater major in college, Curry spent years on the road in touring theater companies. A classically trained singer, pianist and actor, she developed a love for the blues after hearing the music emanating from a club as she walked down the street about nine years ago – and meeting future guitarist and husband Michael Rapier in the process.
The pair quickly enlisted bassist Chris Rogers and drummer Rick Snow to form The Mary Jo Curry Band, the rock-solid unit that continues to back her today – aided by Brett Donovan and Ezra Casey on keys and Brian Moore on sax.
Mary Jo’s 2016 release was produced by another international blues talent, guitarist/vocalist James Armstrong, who volunteered his talents after hearing Curry sing. That CD debuted at the No. 1 spot in the Roots Music Report’s classic blues chart, maintained it for three consecutive weeks and finished as the fifth best album of the year. Three of its tunes also were chart-toppers, and a fourth climbed as high as the No. 2 spot.
The lineup here includes all of Curry’s regular bandmates with blues-rock favorite Castiglia sitting in on six-string for three cuts and Holland, one of the most beloved guitarists in Chicago for the past 40 years, joining in on two others. Duncanson – the golden-throated front man for Central Illinois-based Kilborn Alley Blues Band – joins Mary Jo to deliver one duet. Adding to the mix are Don Udey (trumpet), Conrad Lee (guitar) and Dave Alexander (sax).
With the exception of one cover, all of the material here is original – nine tunes penned by members of the band and another contributed by veteran Windy City percussionist Andrew “Blaze” Thomas. A solitary bass run opens the uptempo shuffle, “Nothin’ Is Easy,” with Albert in tow as Mary Jo finds herself willing to deal away her soul at the crossroads but not finding a buyer and realizing that hard times are on the way. Despite the Delta theme, this one’s a full-on modern electric blues that simply smokes with just about everyone given space to solo.
The driving boogie “Turn It Loose” brightens the mood as Curry’s voice cuts like a knife and hits like a hurricane as she anticipates a weekend full of good times, good blues – and you. Southpaw Holland’s on board next for “All Your Lies,” a deep-in-the-pocket Windy City shuffle in which Mary Jo wonders what’s really going through her man’s mind.
The music takes a jazzy turn in the bittersweet “The Man,” in which the singer knows she’s so deep in love, she’s unable to do anything as he gets ready to go his own way. Mary Jo has a change of heart and is on the hunt for a replacement in the intense, soulful “Lookin’,” aided by Duncanson.
“House Is Lonely” is up next and provides an immediate change-of-pace. It’s a torch-song ballad with a traditional feel delivered from the position of a woman whose husband has just split for greener pastures. The tempo’s still subdued, but the band’s all azure again and deep into the beat for Thomas’ “Explaining the Blues,” which describes the difficulties in describing a break-up to friends who simply refuse to understand.
The sprightly instrumental, “Shake & Bake,” brightens the mood and gives Holland plenty of space to rip and run before Castiglia joins the fray for a cover of the Dan Hartman/Edgar Winter classic, “We All Had a Real Good Time,” and the title tune, “Front Porch,” which heats to a boil with Mary Jo suspecting her man’s cheating as she waits with a six-shooter for him to return. The loping “Joyful” finds Curry walking hand-in-hand with a new lover to bring the action to a close.
Available through Amazon, iTunes and Spotify, Front Porch just might launch Mary Jo Curry into the blues stratosphere. Her time is now!