Jay Stulo plays the heck out of a guitar, everything from wicked, howling, fast-picking slide to slow, subtle, soulful playing. And he always has fun doing it. Despite a smaller, post-New Years crowd, Jay got the crowd excited and dancing by his mixture of traditional blues, originals, and eclectic yet pleasing blend of covers. Sitting and listening to Jay, it's easy to understand why Luther Allison, who he played with, called him a great young blues guitarist.
Jay started things out with excellent, fast picking slide on his guitar intro into "Any Way That You Want It." His capable rhythm section, along with his great guitar playing, made for a whole lot of sound from the blues trio. Jay came right back with some gritty, back porch, traditional blues of "Ham Bone." Always playing with a smile on his face, showing a man who truly enjoys his work, Jay sang in a clear, strong voice accompanied by his screaming, howling slide. Jay did a great job of playing both rhythm and lead at the same time. His energy playing and enthusiasm for the music captured the crowd's attention right away.
Jay gave the crowd in interesting mix of covers, everything from old blues, The Band, The Stones, Steeler's Wheel, and Hendrix. Jay brought out the blues in the pop and rock songs. Two covers that had the greatest emotional impact, driven home by Jay's great guitar and strong vocals, were two songs he picked up playing with Luther Allison and James Solberg. On the old Blind Lemon Jefferson song "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" Jay played some kicking slide guitar, shaking his guitar for vibrato and building a great guitar solo into the song. Later on he covered the dark, atmospheric "St. James Infirmary," giving the old New Orleans blues dirge new life with his powerful guitar playing and solid vocal effort.
Jay is quite a showman in addition to being a tremendous guitar player and solid singer. He took "Who Gonna Satisfy You" very visual by playing guitar with his tongue, rubbing the strings against his belt and chest, and topping it off, literally, by rubbing the guitar strings across his shaved head. This frenzied playing only served to reinforce the subject of the song, the difficulties of keeping a woman satisfied.
Jay's effort on "Let the Devil Drive" from his latest CD, Going Crazy, gave the crowd some great, steady driving blues with catchy lyrics and a danceable beat. Jay covered the recent holidays with a Chuck Berry medley that included a solid version of "Run Rudolph Run" and "Nadine." But he is not just some fast and furious guitar slinger. Jay possesses a nice, soft, soulful touch on guitar, which he showed off on "My Pride Is My Pleasure." His full, rich, slightly distorted chords, playing slow and soulful, were complemented by some great, fast-picking guitar fills. Jay closed out the show with a screaming guitar instrumental on the fast-driving "Hot Rod Lincoln."
Jay was backed by Greg Thiel doing a solid job on the many double shuffles and up-tempo numbers behind the drums. Bass player Rod Zimmerman does double duty, playing a mean, expressive bass while also switching off with Jay a few times during the night to play lead and sing lead vocals while Jay played bass. This trio seems very tight, even though Jay indicated they have only been together since last July. Jay and the band make Appleton, WI, home and have not been touring as much. They play regularly in Wisconsin and Chicago. In February Jay is going back into the studio to work on his next CD. If you want great, guitar driven blues and solid music to dance to, be sure to check out Jay and the band the next time they swing into town. You won't be disappointed by their solid music, high-energy, and enthusiasm for the blues.
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