The JW-Jones Blues Band's debut, recorded while all were in their teens (harmonica wunderkind Southside Steve Marriner was a mere fifteen at the time of the sessions), was one of the inaugural releases on the then-new NorthernBlues label. But while full of promise, "Defibrillatin'" was unmistakably a youthful exercise, all enthusiasm and energy with craft still to come.
Two short years later, NorthernBlues has established itself as a force to be reckoned with, president Fred Litwin displaying a remarkable acuity for spotting unusual talent and fearlessly endorsing it. And the JW-Jones Blues Band have clearly arrived, eminently ready to share both stage and spotlight with their heroes.
The praise is by no means premature. While there's still some emulation in evidence, the sources from which they've drawn their inspiration are impeccable; Kim Wilson, Little Charlie Baty, Rusty Zinn, Junior Watson . . . in short, the cream of the west-coast crop, cats synonymous with tone and taste. And truth be told, JW (guitar, vocals), Steve (harmonica work I stand in utter awe of, along with occasional vocals), Nathan Morris (upright bass) and Matt Sobb (drums) can hold their own with anyone out there.
There's agreement in high places, too; Kim himself helped out on "Bogart's Bounce," contributing two vocals and harp on another track, and bringing Fabulous Thunderbirds bandmate Gene Taylor along to handle piano chores. Tortoise Blue, past-year winner of the "Maple" as Canada's best harmonica player and something of a mentor to Southside Steve, guests on four tracks in his alternate guise as one of the hottest B3 players around.
JW penned most of the material, with Steve contributing a couple; the majority fall well within the classic west-coast swing style. But they're by no means content to sit comfortably within pre-fab genres; while every tune sounds like a curiously overlooked gem from bygone years, each features an unexpected twist, a surprising change here or a sudden stop there, that renders them uniquely distinctive. J-W, whose tone varies from lean, clean Funderburgh to the fat, hollow-body sound of Zinn and Baty, proves himself a master of the wonky solo; like Junior Watson, he refuses to follow conventional logic, instead finding his own balance between tension and resolution that leaves one breathless. And Steve? Well, he's simply a phenomenon, tone like a freight train supporting some serious chops. Yet while both posses enormous technical skills, neither displays the slightest hint of indulgence. What's here is unerringly tasteful, showing a mature restraint that lends a timelessness to each tune.
The disc's lone composition from 'outside' comes courtesy of fellow Ottawan Roxanne Potvin, who sings it as well as adding background vocals elsewhere. While she sounds a bit tentative here, it's evident she has enormous potential; with a voice reminiscent of Sue Foley's, she need only find a way to employ it to best advantage. When she does, watch out! It may, too, have a lot to do with production - her somewhat delicate delivery can't stand up to the overdriven solo that follows, and a more equitable balance between instrument and voice would've been a better showcase. But that's the one and only flaw in an otherwise superb sounding recording, with lots of echo for that classic 'fat fifties' sound.
While it might be tempting to simply marvel at such convincing authority from such a still-young band, it's no longer necessary to categorize them as promising progeny. "Bogart's Bounce" is a fabulous platter, worthy of seasoned veterans yet radiating an exhilarating exuberance many an old pro just can't seem to muster anymore.
This one's absolutely essential. Get it!!!
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