Your crusty chronicler is an individual who does his own thing. Still, when Examiner asked for support for their then new “List” format, it was nigh impossible not to be open-minded about it. So, with that spirit of unity in mind, your rockin’ reviewer presents this series—“Track by Track” in which we review certain select CDs literally “track by track”.
In this edition of the series we (ahem) examine JP Blues’ latest disc Make Room at the Table. But first, for those not up on their indie artists and bluesmen, a bit of music history. JP Blues, born John Pagano, is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who first picked up a guitar at the age of 8. Soon “schooled” on the blues by bluesman Sam “Bluzman” Taylor, the Pagano grew to become a bluesman himself.
Pagano has since gone on to jam with or open for a number of well-known acts including: Michael Falzarano (Hot Tuna), Pete Sears (Jefferson Starship), Buddy Cage (New Riders), Phil Grande (Joe Cocker), Scott Holt (Buddy Guy), Nathaniel Peterson and Dennis Innessibuw (Robert Plant), Johnny Winter, Robben Ford and Cactus to name a few. On his most recent release, Make Room at the Table, he is occasionally assisted by other artists on each audio offering.
(View the pictures to learn more about the music.)
“Keep on Walking”
The 12-track album opens on the cut “Keep on Walking”. This is a good lead-in as it is an example of not only his skills as a musician and singer but also as a songwriter. Shiloh Bloodworth is introduced on the drums and ditto John Young on bass. Co-producer and engineer Richard L’Hommedieu provides backing vocals on this blues rocker that has a Robin Trower touch to it.
“Love so Cold”
The second selection is “Love so Cold”. This is a slow blues track with a sound vaguely reminiscent of Leslie West. Jonathan Norwood is introduced on bass and Bloodworth returns on drums. This is a refreshing cover of a song composed by Ian Parker. He owns it but doesn’t stray too far out of bounds.
“Old Man Joe”
It’s followed by “Old Man Joe” on which Pagano picks up the lap steel and sets off a song somehow similar to music by Procol Harum. The track also effectively introduces Yonrico Scott (Derek Trucks, Royal Southern Brotherhood) on drums and Todd Smallie (Derek Trucks, JJ and Morgo) on bass.
“Make Room at the Table” and “Another Time Another Place”
“Make Room at the Table”, the titular track, features more memorable moments as he take it just a bit beyond the traditional approach on yet another original track. It’s highlighted by Pagano’s bass and Bloodworth on cajón. The next number is the R&B-tinged blues ballad “Another Time Another Place” which includes Bloodworth on drums and Pagano again on bass.
“Move Aside” and “Holy Roller”
Also included here is “Move Aside”. It is yet another example of Pagano’s songwriting skills and is fleshed out with the return of Scott on drums, an encore by Norwood on bass and L’Hommedieu back on backing vocals. The next number is named “Holy Roller”. John Young is introduced on bass and Bloodworth back on drums on this blues rocker.
“Good Enough” follows here and it is rockin’ cut with a bit of funk to it. This has got some possibilities as Bloodworth remains on the drums as Norwood does on bass. This is probably a tune that works even better in a live gig because it just seems like it could be a crowd pleaser.
“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”
The next number is one of the very few cover cuts on this CD. Here Pagano takes on the classic cut “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”. It is a unique adaptation of a song written by Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell and Sol Marcus for the singer-pianist Nina Simone in 1964. With its intricate guitar chord work and soulful vocals this in perhaps one of the best covers of the song since The Animals made it famous in 1965.
“Trouble on Heels”
Pagano picks up his bass and slide guitar for the tune “Trouble on Heels”. This is an upbeat, back country blues bit that comes complete with a noteworthy bridge. Bloodworth encores on the drums to keep the beat going here. This, like almost all the other songs on this disc is also an original.
“We Ain’t Going Nowhere”
“We Ain’t Going Nowhere” adds something to the mix. It has a sense of fun to it as if they musicians had just decided to jam through a soundcheck. It has a bit of Pagano’s personal free form guitar work as well as Bloodworth Smallie returns on bass. while listeners are introduced to the rap work of RoSe LaFt. Over all, this urban-edge, fan favorite features a memorable counter line and a bit of an urban edge added thanks to the addition of RoSe LaFt revealing her rap.
“Day by Day”
The album’s end-note is “Day by Day”. Not to be confused with a cover of The Hooters’ 1985 hit, this is actually an adaptation of the song by Caroline Aiken and Moses Mo. It’s paced well and includes Bloodworth’s steady beat and intros Tony Hossri on bass. In general, this is an interesting album with a refreshingly different mix of musical genres.
Funny how one of his best bits is “We Ain’t Going Nowhere”. After all, if this material is any indication, JP Blues will definitely be going somewhere and his Make Room at the Table is more than “Good Enough”.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.