East Side Slim
The Jeremiah Johnson Band with the Sliders – 9th & Russell
The Jeremiah Johnson Band with the Sliders – 9th & Russell
Artist self-released, 2011
Recently returned to St. Louis after a decade long stint away from "home", Jeremiah has exploded onto the St. Louis-area blues scene with his exciting brand of blues and blues-rooted music. His music owes a debt to the roadhouse sounds he absorbed over the past 10 years spent in Texas, as well as his personal influences, which include acts/musicians such as Clapton, Hendrix, the 3 blues Kings, Lynyrd Skynyrd (listen to those 1st couple of albums; early Skynyrd was an amped up blues band), Johnny Winter, Chet Atkins, Alvin Lee, Hank Sr., and many, many more. As you might gather from this short list of influences, Jeremiah is not a one-trick pony locked into some staid form of bluesy music, but is contemporary and eclectic, yet firmly rooted in what makes blues, soul and R&B music so vital and alive.
Jeremiah's band – his live band was used to record this CD – is truly that, a band. He has created a bedrock rhythm section for the band through the recruitment of Brad Martin (drums) and Jeff Girardier (bass & backing vocals) into the fold. And then there are those horns…
The Sliders are a horn section comprised of Jim Rosse (trumpet) and Stuart Williams (saxophone). They are long-time players on the St. Louis blues/R&B scene – working together for over 25 years – and are talented, highly respected musicians, including having been stalwart performers in the band of piano man Johnnie Johnson. In addition, they have toured with Little Feat and Rob Weir (of Rat Dog and Grateful Dead fame.) The Jeremiah Johnson Band with the Sliders have recorded a fine CD in 9th & Russell. Now it's time to get to the meat in this stew – the songs.
The Songs: (all songs by Jeremiah Johnson)
1. I've Been Evil
--What do you get when you cross a Skynyrd-inspired swamp blues vibe with Boots Randolph licks? Well, I've Been Evil, of course. This tune boasts an undeniable hook and groove, and the only way to have more fun with this song is to hear it live!
2. Whiskey After Midnight
--We have an irresistible roadhouse shuffler here, with horn-charts that sound oh-so-right. Boys, beware those whiskey drinkin' women…'specially after midnight.
3. 9th & Russell
--This is a slow blues wearing a title inspired by the cross-street address of a certain St. Louis watering hole noted for promoting live music - as well as an "everyone's welcome" atmosphere. This tune is a biographical piece from Jeremiah, touching on his early-life rambles and how comfortable he was when he grounded himself at 9th & Russell (a metaphor for home.)
4. Candy Store
--Sporting a Texas blues mid-tempo shuffle, this tune uses candy-inspired references to describe a woman Jeremiah is sweet on (pun fully intended.) This track has a nasty chorus hook, as in it's so good it's nasty.
5. Lonely Guitar Man
--This cut dials the tempo up, nearly red-lining on Jeremiah’s guitar riffing. It's a fiery blues-rock track with a Memphis feel, which of course includes plenty of horns.
6. I Can Barely Breathe
--The Sliders (horn section) are front and center on this heavy riff-based song, with the sinuous interplay between horns and guitar very interesting. Not to be outshone by the horns, Jeremiah alternates back and forth between rhythm and lead guitar playing throughout the song. The title says "I can barely breathe"; well, that's from all the smoke billowing off this fiery track!
7. Some Things Are Sacred
--In a nice bit of sequencing, the band brings the tempo back to a slow blues after two hot cuts, giving the listener a chance to relax and get into a nice slow groove. Now, don't think that because this cut is slower that it isn't tough…it's plenty tough, acting as a stage for some of Jeremiah's most intense, inflammatory lead work on the album. As an added bonus, Jim Rosse steps out front with inspired trumpet soloing; he can make that little horn scream and cry.
8. One Eyed Monster
--If I have to tell you what the lyrics to this track are actually about then you should think about enrolling in remedial blues 101. Anyway, the intro to this song catches the ear in nice way, with Jeremiah playing horn lines on guitar in unison with the Sliders' horns (which occurs often during the course of the CD.) The Sliders supply fine work throughout the remainder of the song, coming through with a throbbing, thick sound. One eyed monster, indeed…
9. Good Morning Fool
--What we basically have here is a Memphis soul ballad, reminding me a bit of the feel of the classic tune "People Get Ready". This song is a feature for the horn work of Rosse and Williams, whose fine work imbues the track with more than a touch of melancholy.
10. Talk To Me
--Wah wah wah…no one's crying, it's the sound of the guitar intro to this tune, which quickly morphs into an eclectic reggae/psychedelic funk/heavy blues hybrid. Should that combination work? Probably not, but you know, it really does work - very well in fact. Very contemporary, a little something for everyone, and very cool (especially nice is Stu Williams' sax solo found around the 3 minute mark.) If there is a song on the CD that could crack today's radio charts and be a hit, this might be the one. Los Lonely Boys did it, so why not The Jeremiah Johnson Band with the Sliders?
11. Brown Eyed Señorita
--I almost hate to let Jeremiah know this, especially after all the fantastic electric guitar, horn charts, melodies and energy heard in the preceding 10 cuts, but this closing song is my favorite on the CD. It's a complete departure from the rest of the album, just Jeremiah singing and playing along on acoustic guitar. It's as catchy melodically as anything else on the CD and the vibe is relaxed yet righteous. Additionally, it serves as a showcase for his vocal talents (Jeremiah is a very good singer), with everything else being stripped away. Nowhere to hide, and no reason to – this is a performance to be proud of.
This CD, 9th & Russell, is not the stereotypical self-produced CD one encounters. Everything here is 1st class: musicianship, singing, production, artwork, and especially the songs. A lot of folks out there can play, and many can sing well, but when the songs are as strong as they are on this CD everything moves to a higher level - at the end of the day it's all about the songs. It can be a difficult task to capture the energy of a great live-performance band on a studio album, especially for blues and R&B acts. Jeremiah Johnson and band have most definitely risen to the challenge, capturing some of that live-music sound and energy on this recording. The band's own motto states "Live Music Is Better", but this CD is great way to experience the group during the times you are not able to see them up close and in person. It's time to rate this bad boy; East Side Slim is very comfortable giving an STLBluesometer rating of 4.00 to "9th & Russell" by The Jeremiah Johnson Band with the Sliders.
(In the spirit of full disclosure, stlblues.net is the official promoter of The Jeremiah Johnson Band. However, East Side Slim is a volunteer CD/event reviewer and fully stands by all content in this review. It is my expectation that this CD will stand on its own merits and end up being considered one of the best independently released CDs of 2011 (it hit the streets very late in 2010.)
For more information concerning The Jeremiah Johnson Band with the Sliders, see the following websites:
Lee Howland - aka "East