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Johnson;Jay Jesse: Set The Blues On Fire

With a title like Set The Blues On Fire and stunning comic book artwork making guitarist Jay Jesse Johnson out to be an axe slinging superhero, I have to say I expected this fifth album from the triple J to be a rockin' blues powerhouse. What I hadn't factored in was the considered approach and eye for detail the Johnson brings to his music. Hence while Set The Blues On Fire kicks mighty ass, it also has a more mass appeal that could and should propel JJJ into the same league as the likes of Joe Bonamassa.

All twelve tracks on show are based round mighty grooves and a boogie that woogies as only the blues can and when you take into account that Johnson is up there with the best guitarists this genre can fire your way, that's a potent potion. It may come in at track five, but the juggernaut that is this album's title cut is as good a place to start as any, its stinging guitar lines and catchy as hell chorus driven onwards by the irresistible rhythms of Reed Boggart on bass and Jeff "Smokey" Donaldson on drums. The pair are stupendous here and throughout, however what takes this album and raises it beyond a simple retread through well worn paths is twofold, firstly and as you'd expect, is Johnson, his guitar soaring, his vocals seductive you simply need to experience "Voodoo Woman" to know I'm right. Whereas the second killer instinct this album possesses is Lee Evans and his fabulous keyboard work, which along with the fact JJJ writes utterly fantastic songs, is the main reason why it is no leap of the imagination to suggest Set The Blues On Fire has true crossover potential. Just sit down and take in the throb of "Don't Mess Me Baby", Gary Moore-like tear jerker "If I Knew Then" or Stevie Ray Vaughn wail and thunder of "Ace In The Hole" to understand the power of what's been put together here and how the keys and guitar mesh perfectly. Vocally, JJJ is no singer through necessity, this guy can seriously belt it out, his traditional American drawl infused with the melody of Clapton. It's yet another reason why he has all the tools to hit the big, or should I say, ginormous time.

If you're looking for Johnson to take six string control and throw down some licks, you won't be disappointed, "Hell Or High Water" finding JJJ kicking things off in top gear, while the understated "Midnight Dream" lays down a solo of such precision and feel, you'll be reliving it for days after. Add in the captivating "Rio De Los Suenos (River Of Dreams)" and you'll discover that touch, tone and tenderness are equal weapons to power and potency in the Johnson armoury.

If you get the impression I like this album, you'd be dead wrong. I love it and any follower of the blues will too.


Track Listing
1. HELL OR HIGH WATER

2. GHOSTS IN TEXAS

3. SINCE MY BABY'S GONE

4. WHEELHOUSE BOOGIE

5. SET THE BLUES ON FIRE

6. MIDNIGHT DREAM

7. VOODOO WOMAN

8. DON'T MESS WITH BABY

9. IF I KNEW THEN

10. ACE IN THE HOLE

11. GRINDING BLUES

12. RIO DE LOS SUENOS (RIVER OF DREAMS)

Added: October 9th 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Jay Jesse Johnson at The Grooveyard
Hits: 669
Language: english

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