The more I play it the more I love it! This essential Blues album, which was written during the time of Covid lockdown, brings you songs of life, the difficult direction it can sometimes travel in and shows that with acceptance of circumstance and positivity, you can grow within it. Simo shares with us “It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever done because it was just very natural” revealing what an incredibly cathartic experience the production of this album was for him.
Born in Chicago in the mid-eighties, J D Simo, after continually begging his parents for one, began playing guitar at the age of five. Only just in double figures, he regularly played in bars backed by older musicians and by fifteen had dropped out of school, formed his first band and toured continually before releasing a live EP which sold around 5,000 copies. “For six years,” he says, “I just lived in a van and played all over the country and never really had a home.” He earned a strong following in the Phoenix area where he performed regularly, appealing to all ages, through his dynamic stage performances and intricate guitar skills. Towards the end of 2006 he moved to Tennessee, establishing himself as the lead guitarist in the Don Kelly Band, which led to him being in high demand as a session musician, a capacity which he played in until 2011.
With joining bass guitarist, Frank Swart, and longtime seasoned collaborator, Adam Abrashoff, on drums, at the beginning of 2010 the Rock band SIMO was created. That year was then spent cutting tracks in a makeshift studio and with the addition of longtime friend, bassist-producer-engineer Adam Bednarik (Justin Townes Earle) they succeeded in bringing together an unconventional mix of shared influences. On tour with the release of their debut album, 'SIMO', in the November of 2011, this was brought to an end with a performance and homecoming at the The Basement in Nashville, the site of their very first show. A vinyl single of 'Shake It/AOH' was released by Sundazed Records on 25th, January 2013, with SIMO then being invited to perform at several festivals throughout that Summer. After opening shows for legendary bands such as Deep Purple and Gregg Allman, then also participating in Joe Bonamassa's inaugural cruise, they then carried out their first tour of South USA in 2015.
With friend Joe Bonamassa bringing the band to the attention of the Mascot Label Group and stating that frontman and guitarist JD Simo is “one of the best out there right now”, they were signed, and the release of their album, ‘Let Love Show The Way’, was in January 2016. With guitar tones courtesy of a '69 Plexi and 70's Traynor, this was Simo's second release, but debut album on Provogue/Mascot Label Group, and on Friday 29th January of that year, Ed van Zijl (CEO of Mascot) applauded it saying that “In the end it all comes down to the guitar, the instrument I adore. If played right it is the most expressive tool in music, after the voice of course.” Debuting on the Billboard Blues Chart in January 2016, this album generated positive reviews and international press coverage from music journalists including Rolling Stone and NPR (National Public Radio), who featured them nationally. Their first full and national tour began in June 2016 performing in a crucifying 37 states in less than 4 months, and totalling more than 80 shows. At the close of that year they had performed a colossal 215 shows in nine countries!
After spending over four months experimenting and adopting a different approach to their previous work, the group next created and released the album, 'Rise & Shine', in the September of 2017, with JD claiming that “much of the lyrical content was autobiographical and was hard for him to listen to at times because of its revealing nature.” JD explains that “If you go through my record collection and look at the more contemporary titles, you'll see the Roots, Wilco, Alabama Shakes and Ryan Adams. I listen to a lot of old Soul music, too. Isaac Hayes. Funkadelic. Bob Dylan. 'On Rise & Shine', I was just trying to cull from the vastness that is my normal music diet, and not trying to pander to some target that was easy to hit." This very expansive album of Blues Rock, with the odd Psychedelic twist thrown in, worked perfectly.
During lockdown in 2020, the band started cutting tracks in their Covid makeshift studio on a weekly basis. Joined by Abrashoff and Bednarik, they mused a proverbial soup of shared influences. 'Mind Control', which was released on 5th November 2021, is a product of this raw collaboration of these three like-minded friends making music to make them feel good. Using the creating of this album for self-therapy and enjoyment, simply because they had to, this soulful Psychedelic Blues Rock album brings us their most original, unique and rawest effort yet. Recently joining forces with the highly touted GA-20, JD and his band have just finished a colossal 60 date tour of North America with alternating headline slots.
With toe-curling demonic Blues vibes opening the first album track, 'Go Away Satan', this has a Psychedelic influence throughout, taking you on a crazy musical medley with lyrics reflecting the internal struggle one can have with bleak and tired thoughts. I found myself struggling to make out the song's verse lyrics as it progressed, but still captured the essence of the track, it's 60’s type retro sound and the weary plea for Satan to go fuck himself!
"I'm in Love' follows this, with a cruisy Blues guitar introduction, which develops throughout in a very mesmerising and rhythmic foot tapping way with Simo losing himself in his music and living entirely in the moment like the Blues greats of old. The guitar is the main focus of this track and it carries you on its waves as the voice of Simo's soul seeps into yours as you travel the song together.
'Let's Go' is an old school swampy Blues recording, which digs down deep inside you, making you ponder about life and its negativities, whilst imploring you to shake them off and free yourself, to break the cycle.
With trippy vibes focusing on how shuttered and ignorant these sort of people are on the album's first single, 'Know It All', released in August 2021, this track builds up then leads you away, before ending in a crescendoing finish. JD explains “the importance of humility, avoiding the knee-jerk response of speaking when I should listen or just openly admitting when I don’t know something or am wrong. I strive to be a better human being and often the things I’m most judgmental about in others are those I need to work on most myself.”
"Want What I Don't Have", features some intricate guitar chords with steady drumming to keep the track moving forwards allowing JD to reach deep within himself, to express the struggles of mental health.
"That's When You Know That You're Down' was the second single released, and is a track that he wrote late one night after listening to a bunch of Captain Beefheart. JD shares with us "It’s definitely got a lot of his influence. The riff itself is a take off of an old Magic Sam kind of thing. The song is a meld of those two worlds, I suppose. Love how it turned out!” Indeed, this is a soulful, guitar-focused track that reflects back on his early influences of the 60s and 70s which merged many genres of music together, gritty and raw and a bit like a live jam.
Following this with music and a beat that successfully represents the song title. 'Fucked Up', the next track twists and wildly gyrates in a very 70's Psychedelic way. It blends well together, borrowing from various music styles from Funk to Gospel.
With a captivating, grinding introduction, the next track, 'Devil Is Always Watchin', flows into a groovy Blues number that creeps into your bones as it ruminates about having the devil always on your shoulder, waiting to capitulate on any moment of weakness within you.
'People Pleaser' has a spacey start, with beautiful sequences and Simo's raw Blues guitar, bringing to mind mind-bending colour and lights dancing wildly, gyrating to the rhythm and beat. A real feel-good song, with JD making use of the guitar in so many experimental and interesting ways.
As would probably be reflective of the song title, 'Recovery', this track starts very slow and melancholy before picking up with striking guitar. “Always speak true no matter how hard it seems”, being just one example of Simo's consciousness in the creating of this personal journey through Covid times.