Review: J.P. Soars – Back of my mind

Posted on: Tuesday, Aug 18, 2009

JP SOARS

“Back Of My Mind”

(self-release)

Here’s a cool album from a guitarist who arrived at the blues in a most unusual way. The California-born, Arkansas-raised JP Soars – a resident of South Florida since 1985 – spent years touring in heavy metal bands, and now, as well as his love for the blues plays the ‘gypsy jazz’ material of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli.

Soars had success in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2007, backing Dave Shelley, and this year his own band, The Red Hots, took home some top honours, with him winning the Albert Kings Blues Guitar award – confirmation of his rising stock as a bona-fide bluesman.

This 12-track debut album, “Back Of My Mind”, features a mix of original self-penned songs and some copper-bottomed blues classics, with Soars gravelly voice and fine guitar being backed by a most sympathetic band – with the ‘ace in the pack’ being the marvellous saxophone of Terry Hanck, who excels throughout. Mention must also go to Billy Burns tough harmonica on some tracks.

The opening, biographical “Born In California, Raised In Arkansas” gets things off to a swinging start, dominated by Soars chunky, retro guitar tone; followed by a fine version of the Guitar Slim chestnut “Letter To My Girlfriend” – which again swings in fine style. Soars and the band hit a soulful groove on his own “Will I Ever” – nice Hammond here from John Epstien, and great solo from Terry Hanck.

The whole ensemble get to stretch out on the eight minutes of Muddy Waters’ “Gypsy Woman” – a slow blues dominated by Soars seering guitar and gritty vocal. The rumba of “Call My Baby” has a nice New Orleans feel, before a great tempo change mid-song into a roaring shuffle. T-Bone Walker’s “Low Dirty Deal” swings like crazy, before the pace is taken down for Rev. Gary Davis’s “Cocaine” – with harmonica man, Billy Burns, to the fore.

A tough version of the late, great Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson’s “Gangster Of Love” is an album highlight, with more guitar fireworks on J.B. Lenoir’s “Been Down So Long” – some sparkling piano from Greg Kingsolver on this. He dips into his ‘gypsy jazz’ style on the last couple of tracks – “Baby I Used To Love You”, with nice strummed guitar – proceedings ending with “Blue Drag”, a smoky instrumental, with some glorious acoustic guitar picking.

GRAHAME RHODES

www.jpsoars.com

www.myspace.com/jpsoars

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