Album Review: Lew Jetton & 61 South – Rain

Lew Jetton

photo courtesy of Frank Roszak Promotions

Lew Jetton & 61 South – Rain

Album Review of Lew Jetton & 61 South: Rain

When I listen to Lew Jetton & 61 South’s Rain, I can imagine driving down a country road hearing these songs on AM radio. This is a classic blues album, with tight musicianship surrounding Lew’s mid-range blues voice.

Yet it’s also modern. And it’s not just the subject matter that’s contemporary, though disc-opener “Who’s Texting You” is clearly not something I’d’ve heard back when AM radio contained more music than talk. Indeed, that song combines a pulsing beat, fun lyrics, and an energetic blues vibe; given the modern spin on a classic cheated-on-me blues song, the opening track has a broad appeal.

Lew Jetton & 61 South - Rain

image courtesy of Frank Roszak Promotions

Yeah, there’s just something about good blues music. Its quality is apparent immediately; the examination of what makes it so good comes later, to the extent it’s possible to understand. And this album, in particular, crosses multiple blues sub-genre lines, proving Lew and his band versatile proprietors of an entire blues emporium.

Raucous “Move On Yvonne” follows the opening song with a party atmosphere, driven by featured contributions ranging from J.D. Wilkes’ memorable harmonica-work to world class ivory-tickling from J. Solon Smith and great guest vocals from Miranda Louise, which served as a reply to Lew’s gruff lead vocal.

“Lay Me Down” is a lay-it-bare, hold-your-lighter-in-the-air, slow-but-insistent number whose showcase musical contribution, supporting Lew’s heartfelt vocal, is a standout guitar line from Sam Moore that’s almost lyrical.

“Glory Train” is an uptempo blues-Gospel number that sports with a crackly radio intro and outro from Reverend Joann Green. Though obviously the production is superior to AM radio “stereo” sound, the opening of this song simply emphasizes that old-fashioned, classic flavor I mentioned earlier.

Lew Jetton

photo courtesy of Frank Roszak Promotions

Ironically following “Glory Train,” Lew Jetton & 61 South’s real come-to-Jesus song may be their spin on John Hiatt’s “Feels Like Rain.”  The upliftingly sad organwork from Dan Bell is the key to this song.  “Feels Like Rain” is a close-your-eyes-and-listen, pure blues number that’s a pleasure to soak up in all its glory.  While working on this review, I also realized “Pontchartrain” and “hurricane” rhyme (and have the same number of syllables), as they’re both used to offset the trisyllabic title phrase. Don’t tell John, but I like Lew’s interpretation a little better.

Finally, another favorite, and this may be because I love well-conceived, fun lyrics, is the growling “Keeping Me Awake,” which derives much of its light-hearted energy from Alonzo Pennington’s dancing guitar line and J. Solon Smith’s almost-jazzy piano-work. But the pleas to Lew’s “baby” that she’s keeping him awake? Classic blues at its most playful.

As a whole, all these songs create a great blues journey, touching upon Lew & band’s broad-based catalog of blues styles. And Rain closes with a terrific rendition of Allen Tousaint’s “It’s Raining,” a romantic plea to a love absent… or perhaps a love lost. Regardless, it’ll tug at your heartstrings.

Backed by a talented band, some on the whole disc and others on a subset of songs, Lew’s supporting cast – and let’s not forget the solid rhythm section of Erik Eicholtz (drums) and bass players James Sullivan and Otis Walker – are as responsible for this disc as Lew’s voice and songwriting. A collection that earns its spot on the turntable (or modern equivalent), Rain is an album that will appeal to hardcore blues fans and casual listeners alike.

 

One thought on “Album Review: Lew Jetton & 61 South – Rain

  1. Pingback: Album Review: Lew Jetton – Christmas Past | Geoff Wilbur's Music Blog

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