Jon Spear Band are be-side themselves

Jon Spear Band are be-side themselves

Jon Spear Band are be-side themselves on B-Side Of My Life plenty to be enjoyed by soulful blues lovers with skilful guitar & killer bass

New album from Jon Spear Band – on B-Side Of My Life – reviewed

Bluesdoodles rating: 3 Doodle Paws – a great listen for soul-tinged blues and r ’n’ b fans. It’s all played exceptionally well and, although one or two aren’t my usual fare, it still rewards.

For their third outing, the  Jon Spear Band continue the standard of the rather nice Hot Sauce album from a few years back…the bluesy skills and humour (check out Butt Dial Kyle or the title track) is still present on their latest release, B-Side Of My Life. So named because, like me discovering the heavy rock of The Sweet on their b-sides, there is much to be discovered on those 45s. As the band say, “Coming out of a lockdown that took us off the road and into the studio to record the third studio album, allowed time to stretch out and explore new musical routes and journeys we call a collection of B-sides, like the old 45 records that sometimes yielded a surprise hit song.”

The band have an impressive pedigree of performing and supporting major acts, but it is together that they excel and bring that experience to bear via blues, rock, soul, country, funk and a hint of jazz, on the eleven original and two cover songs. I won’t dissect all thirteen but rather select my personal highlights.

The covers first: Yellow Moon is by the Neville Brothers from the 1989 album of the same name. Their trademark r ’n’ b laced funk is preserved and embellished by a great guitar solo that is subtle and, mainly, played on the lower strings to bring tone and depth over the bongo percussion and Santana feel rather than the Eastern-ish original.

Darker Side is from Johnny Lang’s debut album and is given a faithful but gutsy reworking…there’s no doubt it’s a Lang song but somehow has a bit more bite…the bass in particular is gorgeous throughout. Heartbeat Like A Samba has, inevitably a Samba rhythm that nails down the blues, funk and pop in a song that will soon get you singing along.

The acoustically led The Shaman, tells of a traditional healer as an allegory for what the world needs at the moment. It has a feel of Uriah Heep and Wishbone Ash co-writing a Lady in Black follow up…and that is not a criticism. Kick In The Head is just that, as the heavy rock/blues riff cuts in…and the guitar solo toward the end is worth the wait.

My Old T-Shirts is just a bit too relevant to me. As my wife often reminds me…sixty-plus of them gathered from concerts and never worn always prompts the same question: why? I don’t know, it’s just essential. The barrelling piano and percussion back this story and provide room for some nice guitar too.

The closing track, Time For The Blues, is a bouncing song that’s fresh but from the 50s and 60s as they name so many heroes of that era as well as throwing in a neat harp and guitar solo and the bass, yet again, pins the song so well with a perfect walking pattern.

There is plenty to be enjoyed by soulful blues lovers and, with skilful guitar liberally sprinkled through every song, there’s plenty for me too. A big plus is the killer bass playing that means every song is worth a second listen (at least) to appreciate the range Burdetsky brings to these songs…and that is a former bass player, now lead guitarist (albeit a very, very amateur one.)

Jon Spear Band are be-side themselves

Big Talk
Heartbeat Like A Samba
The Shaman
B-Side Of My Life
Yellow Moon
Follow The Light
Kick In The Head
Snakes And Spiders
Can’t Have Nothing
Darker Side
My Old T-Shirts
The Muskie Grind
Time For The Blues

Jon Spear: guitar, vocals
Dara James: guitar, vocals
Andy Burdetsky: bass, vocals
John Stubblefield: drums
Skip Haga: keyboards

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(iTunes led (iTunes moved on, unsurprisingly, to Johnny Lang and so I got to hear the original of Darker Side again, as well as many more before I was reminded of how good Jorma Kaukonen is on the 2002 CD Blue Country Heart…nice.)

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