New Album sees JP Soars flying on Southbound I-95

Take a guitarist that has toured most of the world in metal bands, add in the influence of the great Django Reinhardt, top it off with a love of the blues following a raffle winners prize of a guitar and a meeting with BB King and you get the essence of the hugely talented JP Soars. Based in South Florida, this Arkansas born guitarist and vocalist now presents his fourth album called Southbound I-95. It is an extensive, fourteen-track blend of blues, jazz, rock, country, surf and soul…actually, fifteen tracks if you count the second “radio friendly” version of the “explicit” track. Soars is accomplished on a number of guitar types including a wonderful home-made two string cigar box, as well as the lesser known Viola Caipra; a Brazilian via Portuguese ten string guitar with the strings arranged in pairs as on the more recognized twelve-string. Also on offer is an extensive list of featured musicians all of whom are listed too…this is a very good thing for reviewers and geeks (and I am both!) as it allows us to identify the contributions and provides names for future music searches…thank you JP!

It all kicks off in a country blues style with neat slide backing the picked chords as JP’s voice has an edge of gruffness as he extols the virtues of his home base. Then the slide solo is everything you could ask for as the bottleneck traverses the whole neck; a short, picked solo follows with the country twang as evident as in the melody. Next up the blues get a wash of funk on Sure As Hell Ain’t Foolin’ Me. The explicit seems to be in the line “I can smell bullshit a mile away” which rates pretty low on the offensive scale…at least in my mind if not in the US Censor’s. The guitar solo is pitched perfectly over the blues riff and is executed really well. Title track Southbound I-95 brings some surf guitar tinges to a rocker of a track with ‘Peter Gunn’ influences worn proudly and effectively. The bass behind it all is almost a song on its own as it brings a superb bit of depth with the imaginative patterns it weaves. Shining Through The dark brings a different feel as the sax and guitar conjure up a Latin touch to a standard structured blues song. The Grass Ain’t Always Greener puts the rock ‘n’ roll into the blues with a barrelling piano, complete with glissandos, makes this an enjoyable juke joint romp. Next up is an instrumental with acoustic, electric, tambourine and stomp box making Arkansas Porch Party just that…a lovely piece of music but with a depth greater than its parts, and a skill that is a delight. Simple, sparse but meaningful without a word spoken or sung…a kind of Son House with electric overdubs. The pace picks up on the 50s rock and roll of Satisfy My Soul which, unsurprisingly brings some soul into play in just the right amount an the harmony vocals and then a guitar and a sax solo to round it all off makes this a fun song. Born In California first appeared on JP’s debut and is about his early years in Arkansas and stars that two-string cigar box…this is my favourite kind of blues; raw, simply complex, lots of slide and full of emotion and this has it all. The bass line is genius too. When You Walk Out That Door takes the slow blues of Albert King’s original and, without changing it too much, manages to imbue a new feel to it. This is, in part, due to the twin guitars of JP and guest Jimmy Thackery as they embrace the King ethos and play a brilliant tribute to a remarkable guitarist. Another cover and another guest next as JP and Albert Castiglia take on the Muddy Waters song Deep Down In Florida. They have captured the essence of Muddy’s style and injected a bit of extra fire through the fabulous string bends and flourishes that Castiglia brings with him. The second instrumental, Across The Desert, pits JP against the harp work of Lee Oskar… Eastern tinges abound and the solo guitar work shows the influence of Django and the ‘Gypsy Jazz’ he was so brilliant at. Then the harp solo stays in keeping and isn’t, for once, all about lots of notes and heavy breathing, it just fits. Dog Catcher hits close to home as the lyrics tell of his pet training trouble and, as I am currently training, or being trained by, two Westies  I sympathise! It is told over a Latin percussion background with plenty of entertaining guitar runs and a nifty slide solo too. Troubled Waters brings a wealth of drumming sounds into play in the middle section courtesy of Reza Filsoofi who uses a Setar (an Iranian instrument a bit like a lute), Daf Drum (a large circular drum from the Middle east that look a little like a tambourine but has ringlets attached rather than cymbals) and a Tombak Drum (a Persian, goblet shaped more traditional drum) to paint pictures of exotica. On first listening, it doesn’t seem to fit with the more standard blues structure but, after repeats, it is actually an entrancing interlude. Penultimate track, Go With The Flow is another Gypsy Jazz styled instrumental with a bass tom drum intro and rapid picked guitar which has a melody that could have been a TV series theme tune in the 60s or 70s and is catchy as a catchy thing! Think Inspector Gadget after a few beers and that’s the feel I get from this fun tune. At first I thought there was something wrong when the track finished with nigh on three minutes left…then there is some quiet guitar with a strange conversation punctuated by chickens and a cockrel take up the rest of the track…no, me neither.  The album wraps up with the clean version of Sure As Hell Ain’t Foolin’ Me although the only difference I could hear is the supposed offensive word is abbreviated to “BS” so there is no need to listen to this one unless you are offended by bull excrement!!

In summary, farmyard conversation aside, I really enjoyed this whole album. There is a great spread of styles to enjoy, all rooted in the blues and plenty of skills on show on all of the instruments. Ok, it isn’t pure blues all the way through, but every track has merit and it all comes together rather well. Give it a listen and you will find plenty to enjoy.

NINEpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track Listing:

  1. Ain’t No Dania Beach
  2. Sure as Hell Ain’t Foolin’ Me (explicit)
  3. Southbound I-95
  4. Shining Through The Dark
  5. The Grass Ain’t Always Greener
  6. Arkansas Porch Party
  7. Satisfy My Soul
  8. Born In California
  9. When You Walk Out That Door*
  10. Deep Down In Florida**
  11. Across the Desert
  12. Dog Catcher
  13. Troubled Waters
  14. Go with the Flow
  15. Sure as Hell Ain’t Foolin’ Me (Clean Radio Edit)

All songs written by J.P. Soars except * by Albert King and  ** by McKinley Morganfield

Musicians:

JP Soars: Vocals, Electric Guitar, Slide Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Two String Cigar Box Guitar, Viola Caipira Portuguese folk Guitar, Bass: 2, 8, 14

Chris Peet: Drums, Percussion, Bass: tracks 4,5,7,9,10,12,13 Upright Bass: track 11

Travis Colby: Organ: tracks 1, 2, 4, 13; Piano: 5, 13; Rhodes electric piano: 2

Teresa James: Background vocals: tracks 2, 4, 7, 13

Jason Newsted: Bass: track 3

Lee Oskar: Harmonica: track 11

Jimmy Thackery: Guitar: track 9 (1st solos/ Rhythm Guitar)

Albert Castiglia: Guitar/vocals: track 10 (1st solo; vocals verses 3 and 4)

Paul DesLauries: Slide Guitar: track 1

Reza Filsoofi: Setar, Daf Drum, Tombak drum: track 13

Greg Morency: Bass: track 1

New Album sees JP Soars flying on Southbound I-95

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