Sunday, March 27, 2011

Johnny Max's Long Road Well Traveled

Hailing from the Toronto, Ontario, Johnny Max has been playing the blues on radio as well as singing and playing the blues for a few decades now. This writer had the pleasure of seeing him perform at a Saturday afternoon pub engagement which impressed me with his vocals and solid band as well as his way of communicating with an audience, leading me to buy a fine CD by him A Lesson I’ve Learned (Pour Soul Records). He has a new release that this writer finds as delightful, if not more so, Its a Long Road (Pour Soul Records). He is backed by the current Johnny Max Band of Vince Maccarone, (drums), Wayne Deadder, (bass), John Findlay, (guitars), and Jesse O’Brien (keys) who are complemented by background vocals and percussion, plus a full brass section led by Johnny Johnson (obviously a different person than the late piano legend). 

What is immediately apparent is how confident and relaxed Johnny Max’s vocals are and how strong the support he receives. The band sounds well-rehearsed and crisp as if they have been playing this material for weeks (which they may well have), while Max brings warmth, conviction and more than an occasional sense of sly humor here and his songs sound fresh as he ables brings a gumbo of blues and classic rhythm and blues grooves on displayed here. It helps that Johnny Max also has a way with words in capturing the spoiled Daddy’s Little Girl, about the girl who caught his eye with a short mini-shirt who knows how to get what she wants with the band playing a lively New Orleans groove. He also can set the mood, as on Heading Back to You, is a wonderfully sung ballad, while a jazzier flavor marks She Don't Love Me Anymore, as he talks about his women having enough of Johnny’s crazy stuff and that he cannot stay. 

Blues singers Johnny Max and Robin Banks at Toronto's The Rose and Crown

The country flavor of
Song of New York serves as a background for an almost casual delivery of a set of short vignettes of the dark side of the Big Apple with a nice short tenor sax break. The lively I’m in Trouble, with a latin groove and bright horn arrangement as he notes that every time he opens his big fat mouth, nothing but trouble comes pouring out.” 
This release hopefully will enable Johnny Max to be recognized for the fine performer he is with a warm and soulful vocals full of personality, and strong songwriting as well as the superb musicians playing with him. Highly recommended.

I received a review copy from a publicist.

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