Jeffrey P. Ross
Every so often a guitar player so talented and purely gifted comes along that utterly boggles my mind and raises the bar just a little bit higher for all those that may follow in their wake. Jeffrey P. Ross has raised that bar to monumentous heights with the release of his first album as a leader, entitled My Pleasure (Doc Blues Records).
If the name is familiar to you it might be because his past credits have included work with roots bands The Hellcasters and The Asylum Street Spankers, country music’s Kelly Willis, rockabilly’s Rosie Flores and Levi Dexter, and West Coast blues harp aces James Harman, Freddie Brooks and the late William Clarke.
Splitting his time between Austin and Southern California, Jeff has assembled an astonishing cast of players for 15 tracks of pure blues magic, eight of which are original tunes and show just how well-rounded this artist’s musical spectrum is. Mr. Ross doesn’t stick to any particular style of blues on this record, instead choosing to go the eclectic route and letting the music speak for itself.
The original shuffling “Muddy Waters” gets things going and explodes from the first notes of Guy Forsyth’s squealing harp licks and gritty vocals with Ross’ guitar chops sort of lurking about, subliminally catching your ear without any extended soloing. The following number, Django Reinhardt’s “Blues Clair,” switches gears and offers up some jazzy, swing/country-flavored blues, with Jeff trading some squeaky clean licks and solos with violin virtuoso Eric Hokkanen.
Mark Goodwin’s crying vocals are at the forefront of the original “I Thought I Heard The Angels Cryin’,” a slow blues piece done in a classic Chicago style that drips with Jeff’s ever so original guitar phrasings and heart stopping solos. “Good Boy” is a stomping tune that finds Jeff stepping up to the mic, displaying quite the set of pipes along with some pretty nifty harp chops that both wrap around his stunning guitar befittingly. Personally, I think he could have handled all the vocals on this album on his own, as his own voice and delivery are as natural as it comes. But hey, what do I know.
“Pay Attention Blues” is gorgeously augmented by the slick vocals of Nick Curran, whose entire band sits in for this number, as well as the high energy instrumental “Left Eye Jump,” which was co-written by Curran and features a solo from all the players participating.
Earl Hooker’s “Wah Wah Blues” lives up to its name with a downplayed groove and Ross delicately picking his way up and down the fret board.
Two pieces that are sure to become instantaneous favorites upon first listen is the satiny smooth instrumental “Jr. Blues,” which has Ross emphasizing his knowledge of tone and melodic structure to the fullest. The second is a dynamic rendition of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Take It Easy Baby” that singes every sense you have from the opening notes, with Jeff tearing things apart on a couple of frantic solos. The ingenious piano work on both of these numbers is from the very gifted hands of Carl ‘Sonny’ Leland, who is quickly becoming my favorite piano man.
Seeing as how this is a guitar album, there is no shortage of instrumentals. The two best are Jeff’s own “Flim Flam,” which is rich in honky tonk overtones, with Jeff tweaking out a melodic country-ish twang one moment and then assaulting you with some free spirited electricity, while Gene Taylor plucks a few choice notes on the 88s. A delicious take of Albert Collins’ “Backstroke” follows, and all I can say about this number is that the Iceman is probably looking down from blues heaven saying “Yeah baby, that’s the way that tune ought to be played.”
Major Lee Burkes handles the vocals for Homesick James’ classic “Somebody Been Talkin,” and gets my vote for the best cover of the album.
This magnificent collection wraps up with “Make It Snappy,” a funky bop of an instrumental that is as fresh in content as its execution and style. Production can sometimes play a major role in how good a record actually is, and the care that was put into this one by Dave Leroy Biller is evident as this record is crisply clean and flows smoothly over all 15 numbers.
To try to compare Jeff Ross to any other guitarist would be a disservice, as I have never heard anyone who sounds like him. His style and technique are exclusively his and his alone. If you are looking for something new, exciting and completely different than just 12 bar blues, then My Pleasure will more than satisfy your needs.
If you can’t find this stunner of a record at your nearest music store, drop by www.docbluesrecords.com.
With only a month left to the current year, I think I can safely say this is, in my opinion, THE best blues record I have heard this year. I anxiously look forward to hearing more from this fabulous talent. Make My Pleasure your pleasure ASAP!
--- Steve Hinrichsen
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