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Happy Hosting, Happy New Year - Rob Ellen
Out of Richmond, Virginia, (hence the specific text of the album title), four piece band The Bush League here offers some wonderfully stomping blues such as the opening, Howling Wolf inflected ‘River’s Edge’ and the cover of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s ‘Kokomo Me Baby’. Then there is the assured funky blues sound of ‘Show You Off’, the deep, deep blues of ‘Catfish Blues’ which contrasts nicely with the smooth soul of ‘Say Yes’, the menacing ‘Hearse’, and ‘Long Gone’ which melds a strong blues feel with something of an early 70s rock feel. The jaunty ‘Kick Up Yo Heels’, the slow ‘Tuxedo Blues’ (with Vince Johnson’s blues harp playing), the juke-joint styled ‘Moonshine’ and the Mississippi hill country flavoured ‘Cold Shower’ help to finish the set with a strong, traditionally slanted but undeniably contemporary blues approach. ‘What’s Wrong With You’ hits a relentless groove and makes for a breathless closing track.
It is all sung wonderfully by frontman JohnJason “JohnJay”Cecil, who, appropriately enough, moves seamlessly from a Howling Wolf growl to a Luther Vandross-ish love man’s aching plea. Guitarist Brad Moss is equally versatile, and so too is the rhythm section of Royce Folks on bass and Wynton Davis on drums. There are guests too: Jeremy Powell adds fine keyboards (try ‘Moonshine’, which is exactly what JohnJay is advocating!) and trumpet, and Ghost Town Blues Band’s trombonist Suavo Jones also makes a significant contribution, whilst Trenton Ayers of the Cedric Burnside Project adds some fine rowdy licks to a couple of numbers. If you like your blues gutsy, soulful and real, you’ll go for this.
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