Monday, January 04, 2016

JJ Appleton & Jason Ricci Dirty Memory

"Dirty Memory" (Old Boy Network) by JJ Appleton & Jason Ricci is an energetic recording of unplugged blues by two quite accomplished players. Ricci is among the most accomplished harmonica players working in the blues and roots realms and he has an able partner in Appleton, a singer-songwriter and guitarist with support from either Tim Lefebvre or Neal Heidler on double bass. There are six originals from Appleton, two from Ricci and covers of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” The Rolling Stones “Black Limousine” and “It Ain’t No Use” from Gary “U.S.” Bond.

Appleton is a capable singer of the songs and he brings a driving percussive approach to his steel guitar playing as evident on the opening "Leaning Blues," rooted in the "Dust My Broom" riff with Ricci's harp all over the place. Blind Willie Johnson’s classic “Nobody's Fault But Mine” is an interesting interpretation, but is dwarfed by Blind Willie’s original. "Can't Believe It's Good" is a lively number that one could easily imagine being transformed into a full band performance and Ricci's unrestrained playing is very appealing here, like Sonny Terry on speed. Ricci's "New Man" opens with some really nice and imaginative harmonica playing behind Appleton's wistful vocal and followed by "Jason Solo," an unaccompanied virtuoso performance that might be viewed as a tribute to classic fox chase and train instrumentals. "At the Wheel Again" is another fine duet with spirited harp and steel guitar with Appleton singing about being the "devil's pawn singing an angel's song." I am not familiar with the Stone's rendition of "Black Limousine," but the enjoyable performance here (particularly Appleton's slide playing) evokes the Stone's cover of "Little Red Rooster." A similar groove (without slide) marks the cover of Gary 'U.S.' Bond's "It Ain't Use," which benefits from the restraint shown here.

A reflective, solo performance by Appleton, "Come On Over, Come On By," concludes a recording of acoustic blues that many will find to their liking.

A publicist provided my review copy. It was written for Jazz & Blues Report and likely will run in the January-February 2016 issue (issue 364). Here the two perform "Nobody's Fault."

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