Friday, January 22, 2010

CD Review: John Jorgenson & The Texas Sapphires

Sometimes we will receive a new CD in which automatically generates a "Wow, I had no idea". And that feeling occurred while listening to the first track of The John Jorgenson Quintet's "One Stolen Night". His guitar playing is simply "dazzling" - in his "gypsy jazz" style. What an eye opener - I had no clue; and I instantly regretted not seeing him at Jammin' Java this month. What a shame.

Jorgenson has a long history - being a member of Elton John's band, fronting several bands and accompanying artists ranging from Bonnie Raitt to Earl Scruggs. I can see why they wanted him - his guitar playing is truly amazing - exemplified by this CD and the first track "Red on Red". How does he maintain the temp? "Slide Sister Slide" is catchy - almost like a theme song; but its "One Stolen Night" which is my favorite song. Part gypsy - part Latin - a classic. The tempo increases as "Mediterranean Blues" oscillates between Jason Anick's violin and Jorgenson's guitar and then retreats during "Souvenirs Des Nos Peres" as Jorgenson performs on the clarinet. "Kentucky Kastinos" is a jam band song and reinforces Jorgenson's picking ability. And we head down the Danube - where you can find the world's best gypsy music - in "Hungaria". Up to this point, this was an all acoustic album, when out of nowhere Jorgenson belts out some jazzy lyrics in "Dr. Jazz". The CD finishes with more traditionally inspired gypsy jazz similar to the title track. Stay to the end - "Dark Romance" is sweet. All in all - an eye opening CD; an instant favorite.

We also received a second compilation from Jorgenson, this time in association with the Orchestra Nashville - "Istiqbal Gathering". This CD is an orchestration - only half a dozen songs - with a couple over ten minutes in length. To be frank, initially I didn't enjoy this CD as much as "One Stolen Night" - but not because of any deficiency in the performances. In fact, Jorgenson was simply amazing - however, whereas the Quintet is able to complement each other - in the first track, the orchestra at times overwhelms Jorgenson. Right when I started getting into Jorgenson's guitar, a flute or trumpet would over shadow it. To my liking, Jorgenson takes center state during the second track ("II. Seaside Waltz") and by the third track the entire orchestra is complementing each other. At this juncture, I was hooked; it's playing in the background right now. I'd love to see this performance at the Kennedy Center or Wolf Trap.

The next CD under review is the latest from The Texas Sapphires, "As He Wanders...". This is also an instant favorite for a number of reasons. First, no two songs sound the same. One may be interpreted as traditional country, another alt-country. Then again, some have a bluegrass flavors - another - southern rock. Second, I have a soft spot for bands with both a male and female vocalist. This may be a result from listening to Donna the Buffalo all these years, but I love this pendulum and especially in this CD - from male honky tonk to traditional Patsy Cline country. Third, its the instrumentation - plenty of pedal steel, with some banjo, mandolin, dobro - thanks “Slim Bawb”. And finally, since front man Billy Brent Malkus hails from the Chesapeake, his stories mentioning Baltimore resonate with me. As does the song "How Did I Get So Sloppy Drunk (When I'm Drinking Neat)" - particularly the line - my friends say to mix her down - but I just don't like it sweet.

There are several other excellent songs, starting with the first track, "Nashville Moon" - composed in the rockin' Texas alt-country tradition. This song could be confused with Reckless Kelly or The Randy Rogers Band. Great guitar work as well. Ms. Cannon takes over in "190" - which exemplifies the nice change in pace with the vocals - and the pedal steel. I love her voice; this song and "Make Him Make Me" are her best. Want real country try "Stunt Double" or "Spirits"; some fine picking - "Freiheit Rag". My favorite song may be "Riddled Days" - performed as a waltz - with some mandolin solos - an awesome song.

The Texas Sapphires are based out of Austin and are comprised of the aforementioned Billy Brent Malkus, Rebecca Lucille Cannon, and Bob “Slim Bawb” Pearce - with several artists filling in on various songs. Check out their website for more bio information - and while there take a look at their previous work, particularly Valley So Steep - which was produced by Lloyd Maines.

No comments: