Here we have a man who invented a new approach to the ‘Teach yourself…’ style of books. Californian Jon Gindick (that’s with a ‘g’ as in gun rather than Geoff) grew up listening to The Beatles, Paul Butterfield, the Stones and the like, which encouraged him to take up the guitar and harmonica. He came up with the idea of special, accessible tutorials and put together a package of instruction book, cassette and a Hohner harmonica. Following the success of that venture, he wrote the best selling “Country and Blues Harmonica for the Musically Hopeless”…thus predating and perhaps inspiring the “Idiots Guides’. He has also run a series of ‘camps’ so that his students could spend time with him and share experiences with their peers. He only started sharing his skills with the wider world in 2010 when, after meeting multi-instrumentalist Ralph Carter, he produced his first all original album called rather splendidly, When We Die, We All Come Back As Music.
He has now released the follow up to that opus and called it Love At The All Night Café. One glance at the track listing and you will see that Jon has a great sense of humour combined with a refreshing streak of honesty that shows in his lyrics as well as, when it suits, his playing.
It starts with a tribute to harp players that went before… the first verse is about Little Walter, the second about Sonny Boy, also mentioned are Sonny Terry, Big Walter, Jimmy Reed and Howlin’ Wolf and many others…it eventually transpires that this is dream and Jon injects that trademark humour and a Graham Chapman Mrs Cutout female voice (One of the “Pepperpot” women played by the men of Monty Python, in case you’re wondering). August company indeed, that his playing certainly lives up to and the simplistic backing from the guitars is very effective, especially with the subtle barring and slide. Feeling Her Gone moves us to Memphis for a soulful story of lost love but it’s hard to relate to the lyrics when the music is quite buoyant…particularly the guitar and harp duetting on the outro. Baby’s Got The Blues is a slide-backed shuffle that is vocally spot on and the harp solo has a similar voice and melody to keep the mood blue. The only shame is that the slide that sounds so promising at the start doesn’t get a further airing. The All Night Café is next up and moves into Latin territory with the beat and instrumentation…humour laced lyrics backed by neat harp, flamenco style guitar and piano make this difficult not to like. Load Me Up Baby is a more up-tempo blues with a standard pattern but with the added benefits of Berry styled guitar in the background and a great solo at the end as well as the well-paced harp interjections. Mississippi Moods isn’t the Delta as one might expect, but more a slow, soulful blues based around the organ and piano and the occasional flash of electric slide. Jon puts in the best harp solo in my humble on this as he keeps it slow and full of expression and brings as much lyricism to the sound as the words. The next song could be harmful to married men everywhere for, although I for one subscribe to the title’s sentiment, Happy Wife, Happy Life, Happy Home, it may not sit too well with my better half as it suggests that all it takes is money! The beat is infectious though and the guitar is the highlight even though it remains in the background again. There is a more serious edge to the lyrics of The Song I Couldn’t Write: another pleasant song with clever piano and bass giving a base for the vocals and harp to pull the heartstrings. I Love The Feminine Girl is next and may need a lyric warning too as Jon espouses the enjoyment to be gained from “walking behind a woman and enjoying the music of her movement and the motion of her ocean”. It is, of course, tongue in cheek, and delivered over an infectious beat with piano and harp keeping it all happy and carefree and hopefully avoiding any PC police, after all it is about his wife…real or imagined! Hand Holding Man is a lovely, languid, slow blues with piano, guitar and harp making for an enjoyable four minutes. It could also be a lyrical payback after the hedonism that went before. Can’t Get That Girl Off My Mind is the penultimate track and is like imagining Santana on the harp…as Jon voices regret about unrequited love at first and only sight, is the theme this time. Final track, In The Land Of You, is a true love song with many a lyrical twist as the band supply another languid backing track for the harp and voice to explore the melodies.
This is an album full of surprises and immaculate musicianship…the pity from my point of view is that Franck wasn’t given a lot more space although it is Jon’s album so perhaps that is a little unfair; it’s just that when I saw he was on this, I imagined some of the flashes of genius he showed on his lovely Bluju release. Still, if you like subtle, expressive harp work that speaks and a lyrically challenging and undoubtedly amusing set of songs, then this would be a worthy addition to your collection.
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN …
- I Was Born to Wail
- Feeling Her Gone
- Baby’s Got the Blues
- The All Night Café
- Load Me Up Baby
- Mississippi Moods
- Happy Wife, Happy Life, Happy Home
- The Song I Couldn’t Write
- I Love the Feminine Girl
- Hand Holding Man
- Can’t Get That Girl Off My Mind
- In the Land of You
Jon Gindick: guitar, harmonica, vocals
Ralph Carter: bass, keyboards, guitar, backing vocals
Pete Gallagher: drums
Franck Goldwasser: guitar