What’s instantly likable about this 8th LP by The Jason Lee McKinney Band is the driving bluesy attack drenched in a groove swiped from the pages of The Blasters, Fabulous Thunderbirds & Steve Earle.
However, McKinney is not a cookie-cutter artist. He has the smarts for his own creative stamp on these brawny rhythmic tracks. The LP Pieces, (Bonfire Music Group – drops Feb. 21st) has ringing, chiming lead guitar (Sam Berce) work on “Normal Is Just An Exit.” Energy is in the house.
The 10-tracks recorded in Mississippi were produced by Grammy-nominated Kevin Houston (Buddy Guy, Robert Plant). These songs are a basketful of roadhouse rock, soulful countrified grooves, bluesy lead guitar & lots of barn burning foot stompers. “Blues In Bahrain,” is the highlight.
The groove-heavy tunes are driven by Jason (electric & acoustic guitars, lead vocals), allows for some twin-lead guitars with Sam Berce, Barry Strauser (piano, organ), Billy Wright (bass), & Logan Todd (drums). Memphis soul artists Reba Russel & Susan Marshall add the backup vocal hues.
Is there anything here to discover? No. It basically follows the recipe laid down by The Del-Lords, Beat Farmers, Kim Wilson or the Dave & Phil Alvin. What you’ll find is a band with character, style & it’s not a bar band. They’re polished, & they approach their repertoire with ballsy arrangements. Probably a little closer to Jason Ringenberg (Jason & the Scorchers).
“So Long,” is a tight, soulful track with a nice lead guitar solo & backup singers that frame this into a 60s soulful dynamic. This track could’ve been covered by any of the Motown acts & cash registers would ring. (Remember those things?)
McKinney doesn’t have a totally signature sound. Not an Elvis, Tom Waits or Springsteen. But it doesn’t have to be. His formula is sincere as a full-tilt stab at Americana-roots via rock & roll. He succeeds nicely without being bombastic. Many songs are balanced pieces that don’t ever get away from him. Especially “New Strings On An Old Guitar.” Quite good.
A Temptations/Sly & the Family Stone groove starts “Groove Is Getting Old,” & the bass dominates. My only suggestion would be that a grittier vocal could really draw attention to this. If McKinney could go slightly Eric Burdon, just a little – that type voice in that song would be a flame to gasoline. The crunchy lead guitar – a nice touch. Appropriate. This one’s a keeper, nonetheless. A tight funk song that you don’t hear much anymore.
The band has picked up on a piece of nearly dead music. That 60s funk-groove mixed with equal parts of blues, & rock. They must be excellent live. The ballad “Cover Town,” has McKinney turning in his finest vocal – sincere, solid. A slight resemblance to Jon Bon Jovi but better, by far. Way by far. The musicians are exceptional throughout.
The 35-minute CD is available at Amazon.