I admit that this is a new band to me but I was, after some of the PR I’d seen, delighted to be given the chance to listen to an obviously highly regarded band and singer. Mary Jo Curry and her now partner, Michael Rapier, began performing together ten years ago around Illinois and released one self-titled album in 2016…having dug that up, the only shame is that the new one, Front Porch, is only her second. It does, however, build on that strong bluesy debut and, as a measure of her talents, also includes guest appearances from the considerable talents of Albert Castiglia and Tom Holland bringing guitar prowess and Andrew Duncanson bringing his tonsils. The band also proves to be up to the standard of the illustrious guests as everyone pours their hearts and souls into the ten original and one cover track on this fine release.
The opening track, Nothin’ Is Easy, starts with a great bass riff that is nearly slap bass, but a bit more refined…if you know what I mean. The rest of the band joins in on what could be a soundtrack to a film about failing to emulate Robert Johnson! “I’m standing at the crossroads, can’t give my soul away” is the story from Mary’s strong and apposite vocal. The central section has neat Hammond and then sax and guitar each getting a very short solo to round out a very good start. Turn It Loose is next and shifts into party mode with a bouncy number that has barrelling piano keeping the main melody as the band enjoy themselves…especially the neat guitar phrases and solo. “I don’t mean to be a bitch, but this bitch is gonna have some fun” kind of says it all!
All Your Lies is Mary Jo in full bunny boiler mood as her lover receives her sharp-tongued ire. Musically it is all shuffle with some tasty guitar and swirling Hammond to make it seem like the risk was worth it! The Man moves into proper R’n’b territory with a slowish tempo and impassioned vocals. The sax then solos in a smoky, suitable, and empathetic way. Lookin’ is a duet with Andrew Duncanson and they trade verses with a sense of fun as the riff plays on the style of the classic Good Morning Little Schoolgirl. The Hammond and slide guitar combine to make this my favourite from the fade into the fade-out. House Is Lonely is a ballad that has similarities to Stormy Monday but retains its own identity. The keys drench the song with an atmosphere that the vocals build on nicely and the guitar solo is picked perfection…but way too short. Explaining The Blues is a real showcase for Mary Jo’s range and dynamism as she gives her all over a familiar yet fresh background that, with the Hammond and hi hat swing is very reminiscent of the Animals on House of the Rising Sun. The Hammond shines on the solo too and echoes the passion of Mary Jo’s singing.
Shake And Bake is a swinging instrumental that I love…everyone gets a turn to shine and they do…it has a mix of styles that mesh seamlessly and irresistibly…and that includes a really classy and clever bass solo: surely there should be more bass solos?
I first encountered the next track, We All Had A Real Good Time, via Edgar Winter back in 1972 when he entered this nation’s consciousness with the surprise hit instrumental Frankenstein, which demanded I seek out his other work…the album They Only Come Out At Night from whence it came, still gets the occasional run out and is where I heard this song. The band stays fairly true to the original, maintains the southern rock feel and Castiglia sets fire to the solo so it stays long in the mind…although I could have done without the crowd celebrating behind it.
Front Porch may sound like it would be an acoustic, bare-bones track but it’s anything but…a word of advice to partner Michael if tempted to stray: don’t do it! Mary Jo sounds like she will put the bunny boiler to shame. Anyway, the music behind the venom begins with melancholy piano, then extraneous sound effects before the bass interpret the main riff brilliantly. Listen closely too, for the funky guitar play behind the vocals before the wah’d solos set sparks flying.
The final track takes us to church as the gospel-infused funk of Joyful encourages the congregation like a sort of lay preacher of the blues and the tempo changes keep it interesting.
This is a well crafted and executed album from a bunch of class musicians that will translate brilliantly into a live setting…eventually! A great mix of blues based songs that bring variety and enjoyment in equal measure.
Bluesdoodles rating: Wonderful – blues and r’n’b for virtually every mood
- Nothin’ Is Easy
- Turn It Loose
- All Your Lies
- The Man
- House Is Lonely
- Explaining The Blues
- Shake And Bake
- We All Had A Real Good Time
- Front Porch
Mary Jo Curry: vocals
Michael Rapier: guitar
Chris Rogers: bass
Rick Snow: drums
Brett Donovan/Ezra Casey: keyboards
Brian Moore: saxophone
Albert Castiglia: guitar
Tom Holland: guitar
Andrew Duncanson: vocals
(The iTunes run on track delivered some brilliant blues-rock from Matt Pearce and the Mutiny…Scarecrowing is the first track from one of the albums of 2019, Gotta Get Home.)