Boca Raton guitarist and singer, JP Soars, was the 2009 winner of the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge where he also won the Albert king Award for Best Guitarist. He took an unusual path to the blues having initially played in heavy metal bands. later as his musical pursuits took him into gypsy jazz he started developing a passion for the blues. He has a self-produced debut album, Back of Mind.
Soars playing on this displays none of his early heavy metal music days. He has become a deft guitarist who has become quite a versatile player incorporating elements of T-Bone Walker, Guitar Slim, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson and others. On this he is backed by his Red Hots, bassist Gary Rimmington and drummer Chris Peet. There is a good mix on this recording, opening with the trio on a hopping jump blues, his autobiographical, Born In California Raise In Arkansas, followed by an augmented band that includes saxophonist Terry Hanck for Guitar Slim’s Letter to My Girl Friend, with Hanck ripping off a hot tenor sax solo before Soars rips off a hot solo in the Guitar Slim-early Johnny Watson vein. Of the songs that Soars covers, this one is probably closest to the original.
Soars’ marbles in mouth vocals with some backing vocals revive Willie Dixon’s 29 Ways, while his original Will I Ever, is a nice soul tinged ballad. His rendition of Muddy Waters’ Gypsy Woman, reworks the Delta blues into how Boz Scaggs may have done it in the seventies with a solid tenor sax solo, atmospheric organ from John Epstein and terrific guitar playing. There is a hot T-Bone Walker shuffle that almost has a rockabilly feel and J.B. Lenoir’s dirge-like Been Down So Long becomes a late-night modern blues. This disc closes with on an acoustic vein with the low-key blues Baby I Used to Follow You, and the marvelous nod to gypsy jazz Blue Drag.
JP Soars is a marvelous musician who brings a fresh approach to some classic older blues. The only negative is that his gruff vocals are not on the same level which is a shame because there is plenty to like about this. It is available from cdbaby.com.
I received my review copy from a publicist for this release and wrote this review in 2009 but I do not believe it was published.