JP Williams Blues Band’s featuring Ekat Pereyra

2021

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I can’t say I know much about JP Williams, as biographical details for him are decidedly on the thin side. His own site gives only the barest details, boiling down to the scanty facts that he started playing in clubs in Pennsylvania, moved to New York and got involved in the Blues scene, picking up several awards in recent years. This is not a backstory, on the face of it, that is going to inspire an award-winning documentary, even if, no doubt, there have been roadblocks to overcome on the way.

From the pictures on his site, not to mention the video for the excellent opener ‘Mighty Dangerous Boogie’, JP is no spring chicken. Clearly though he has picked up a thing or two on the way and this is an unpretentious collection of songs grounded in the Blues, played with mature insight and skill, which offer a fresh twist to a sometimes jaded format.

I really liked this set of numbers. The recordings were made remotely over a three-year period and are none the worse for it. In fact, the album has a clear and clean production that allows all the instruments equal space in the mix. JP’s vocal style is more talking than singing and is immediately to the fore on the aforementioned opener ‘Mighty Dangerous Boogie’, a bustling tune carried along by a propelling bass line and crisp drumming overlaid by the excellent wailing lines spun out by Eddie “The Harp” Czarkowski, also featuring some tasty slide work by JP on his signature cigar box guitar.

‘Around Midnite’ is a delightful melodically haunting number sung by Ekat Pereyra, a Russian born singer who joins the band for this record. Piano and sax fill out the gaps. The songs, apart from one exception, are all originals and offer far more lyrically and musically than much other stodgy fare offered up in the names of the Blues. ‘Regret’ is a cautionary tale (“Life is hard and that’s no joke, don’t start a fire if you can’t stand the smoke” etc.) with witty lyrics that offer a fresh perspective on an old theme, growled by JP with additional vocalising from Ekat, who then takes the lead on the jaunty piano led ‘Solid Gone’ with its ragtime feel.

‘Don’t let the Devil Ride’ features a sparse but highly effective arrangement starting with only a cool guitar groove and harmonica. Some prominent bass lines and slide kick in as the two vocalists trade lines, their voices complementing each other perfectly. ‘Never Break This Heart’ threatens to be a big torchy ballad but doesn’t quite get there; Ekat’s voice isn’t really suited to the upper register where the song is pitched.

‘Need a Little Sugar’ is a memorably catchy upbeat shuffle. ‘Talkin’ Coronavirus Blues’ has one of the least imaginative titles you’re likely to come across, but is a tuneful and enjoyable observation piece with typically pointed lyrics and is far more interesting than its name would suggest. There is no fashionable vibe surrounding this release but this is, however, a really charming collection that is full of well-written songs that offer a lot of variety. Eminently listenable.

Simon Green