JD Simo Trio
Nashville-based guitarist, singer and songwriter, JD Simo, released his new album, ‘Songs From The House Of Grease’, in January. Recorded with his trio (completed by drummer Adam Abrashoff and bassist Todd Bolden), JD has previously explained that "this album is a live snapshot of me and the fellas playing some favourite tracks, and I think it comes through on the recordings just how comfortable and easy-going the sessions were. It’s as if you’re in the room with us hanging out. I couldn't be prouder, as it captures my best playing ever.”
There certainly is a raw feel to the album, visions of a deep South shack with the three guys on the porch with the sun dipping down come to mind, relaxed and heartfelt they work sublimely through 40 minutes of raucous stripped down Blues. This is an album that feels more Robert Johnston than any modern Blues player, harping back to the genre at it’s most basic form - guitar, bass and drums, unpolished and free flowing and yet somehow, highly cohesive.
Containing five songs, it includes covers of John Coltrane's 'Afro Blue', Blind Alfred Reed's 'How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live' and Mississippi Fred McDowell's 'Mortgage on My Soul’, plus a free Jazz take on Simo’s own 'Higher Plane' (from his self-titled 2020 solo record) and a brand new Meters inspired cut entitled ‘Missy’s Strut’.
‘Mortgage on My Soul’ was the first single from the album and JD explains his take on it by stating “I just really dug the words and I also love the hypnotic vibe of his style. Over the course of a few months we started doing it during soundchecks and Adam came up with this killer Afrobeat style groove. It’s also a really good showcase for my slide playing and is such a blast to play.” This is almost jazz like to begin with as gentle slide is overrun with a hectic drumbeat but as the track progresses the two become intertwined with the odd vocal interaction.
Second single release ‘Afro Blue’ interprets John Coltrane’s arrangement of the minor key Jazz standard by Mongo Santamaria. Instrumental and stirring, it moves along classily with some great guitar work and JD says “'Afro Blue’ is a cornerstone tune in the language of music, we just played it off hand during the sessions and ended up capturing a lovely moment. It's hard to approach such hallowed material but I'm proud of it and really enjoy playing it.”
JD’s love and respect for the roots of Blues and Rock ’n Roll led him to be chosen by music supervisor David Cobb to record all the guitar parts for the recent blockbuster biopic ‘Elvis’. In an interview with Guitar World magazine about his role in creating its soundtrack, JD said, "I’m such a fan of Elvis’ music, but also the music of that period and the other stuff we recorded for the film. Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup, Muddy Waters, B.B. King - all of that is a big part of my musical DNA.”
‘Missy’s Strut’ the shortest track here, does what it says on the tin by strutting along nicely, and has a more modern feel than everything else here, but is still rooted in the past with an easier more upbeat touch that makes it more accessible.
‘How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live’ is a great interpretation of the old classic, a wonderfully laid back laconic vocal ironically delivered over some beautiful playing. My personal favourite of the album.
'Higher Plane Pt.1 and Pt.2' completes the album with the same raw intensity and guitar work including some grungy feedback. It does filter back into a jazzy vibe which is an overriding theme through the album and completes everything nicely.
All in all, a good album which will please Blues aficionados, but may not transfer others to the genre, but well worth a listen.