"Don't try too hard because then you'll be a fake." That is guitar player/
singer/ harp player/ songwriter JL Stiles on songwriting. And the
songster's new collection of work entitled "Solo Sessions" embodies that
philosophy- it comes off anything but fake.
The catchy opening track "Nothin' Here for Me" finds Stiles looking for his
place in society- and not finding it in the fancy Porsche store or the mall
("Is this really what me mean by the home of the free?" he scoffs.) Alas,
in the last verse Stiles winds up at a park with people relaxing, playing
soccer, "having general fun," and decides there's something there for him.
It is that down-to-earth nature that makes JL's songwriting and playing so
The melodic acoustic runs JL delivers throughout the album are reminiscent
of the great Mississippi John Hurt, and sure enough, JL sites him (along
with Jimmy Reed) as a primary influence. "Fellow Grove" is a neat piece of
nostalgia in which JL reminisces about hunting for golf balls and selling
them for baseball card money. The strongest track on "Solo Sessions" is
probably the boisterous "You Missed it Man." This track might be the
album's bluesiest, and it features some of JL's finest harp work, which is
punctuated by a nice, full-bodied 12-string blues riff.
Songwriter's of Stiles' caliber are all too uncommon. He brings a depth
that is not only uncommon for a musician his age, but also difficult to
achieve without sounding hokey. The album is consistently good from start
to finish. If you enjoy harmonious acoustic blues by the likes of
Mississippi John Hurt, Keb Mo, Geoff Muldaur, or Jimmy Reed, be sure and
pick up a copy of "Solo Sessions."
This review is copyright © 2001 by Preston Ackerman, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.