Jefferson Grizzard – Back Porch Syndicate Meets The Asbury Park Mafia
I always get a kick out of the fact that the musical nation wants to come to New Jersey. I mean, I always want to go to their state and experience what they have to offer, and they want to experience the wondrous joy that we sprinkle down upon our mystic Shoreworld masses. The wonderful world of “The grass is always greener on the other side” rolls on and on for all of us. Nevertheless, it is flattering to know that folks list us as a destination and friend to the fan and working musician on the road to success.
Jefferson Grizzard is an artist that is testing that proverbial fence. Grizzard is a small town Georgia boy turned Nashville troubadour on his way to his own musical destiny, and he is stopping off in Asbury Park for a heapin’ helpin’ of our East Coast hospitality.
Grizzard is also out in support of his new record titled A Crack In The Door. The record is an insightful look into Jefferson’s upbringing and continued oddesy of hard living and guitar exorcism that he is now performing across the country. He calls his musical style Americana, and while that label is getting a lot of use these days, Grizzard plays close to the vest with that descriptive style.
He is not just another pretty boy soprano, and earns his jagged melody through tough insight. With a vocal style that lies somewhere between Dylan and Randy Newman, Jefferson Grizzard gets right to the point, releasing his story telling passion like a truck load of gravel being dumped in the backyard. In addition, while I can see the Neil Young inflections, I feel that Jefferson Grizzard also possesses the rock and roll phrasing of Billy Corgan, the spoken style of Kris Kristofferson, and all the raw emotion of Bon Scott. It is not pretty in the typical way of a pop artist, but he is far from anything typical, and that is what counts in my book.
Ben McRee (Back Porch Syndicate) produced A Crack In The Door and that has resulted in several great songs in the 11 offerings. Tracks such as “Since You Came Around,” a greasy, road weary rock and blues number featuring the amazing organ work of Nashville legend Dennis Wage (Faith Hill, David Allen Coe, Delbert McClinton) and drummer Mike Caputy (T. Graham Brown, David Lee Murphy, Johnny Neel, John Rich, Marty Stuart, and Rick James). These two, along with a bevy of other fine players, put the pedal to the metal on this upbeat hillbilly stomper.
“Burned Out Sun” steers close to Neil Young/Tom Petty territory with its melodic similarities and tempo, but Grizzard and crew manage to stay over in their own lane, fleshing it out with layers of shimmering organ, acoustic guitar and slide work (courtesy of Tim Hamilton) that keep this traditional tribute fresh. I love the distorted, dirty slide growl that overshoots the end of the tune like some junkyard dog growling at a tire thief.
“Alaska” glides in, dynamic smooth and acoustic quiet, as Grizzard waxes poetic on the land of the snow. The Kris Kristofferson vibe is strong here with its insightful melody and instrumentation choices. The pedal steel work of Hamilton is back to sway the direction of this stark and solemn journey through missed opportunities and faded love. Grizzard has a demonstrated talent at crossover appeal, and “Alaska” is a fine example of country meets old school soft rock. The able assist of Angela McRee on backing vocals adds a fine touch to an understated gem.
Jefferson Grizzard and band will be rolling into Asbury Park on April 15 for an appearance at The Saint. Another interesting item is that a couple of our own artists will be joining his band for this show. Singer/songwriter Matt Wade takes the piano spot along with pedal steel kingpin Marc Muller (Shania Twain, Bruce Springsteen). Adding these two Asbury Park Mafia players to the Back Porch Syndicate is the first official meeting of the bosses, and it is likely not to be the last.
Moreover, while a couple of the tunes on A Crack In The Door might fall into standard fare, the major portion of the disc should have Jefferson Grizzard conquering several different charts, including country, rock and American Outlaw. For more information on Jefferson Grizzard or this Smoky Mountain show, head over to jeffersongrizzard.com and thesaintnj.com.
Old No. 7 – Brushing Their Teeth With A Bottle Of Jack
Old No. 7 (pictured) is a band that has been paying its dues for several years. Highly respected local songwriter Tony Tedesco told me, “Old No. 7 is everything you want in a party—hot chicks, great music and a vibe that elicits the palpable aroma of bourbon and sin from the very first note. In contrast to so many local bands hoping to find their rockstar future by gazing into their shoes, these guys grab the moment by throat and unabashedly revel in making everyone’s favorite classics their own.”
You cannot really get a better recommendation than that, can you? That credit is funny as I also see on their site that Old No. 7 has been called everything from “the unhealthiest band in the Tri-State” to the dirtiest band on the circuit. While one may have nothing to do with the other, this group blows that description out of the way as they perform with vitality conjured from the spirit of Fats Domino and Elvis from the ‘50s.
ON7 brings the whole 10-piece New Orleans rhythm and blues party featuring their infamous four-piece horn section to the Press Room in Asbury Park at 9 p.m. on Friday, April 13. Thomas Wesley Stern will get the whole ball rolling. on7band.com
Marc Muller – Dead On Live!
Marc Muller is a busy man these days. He is in my column twice this week so he must be doing something constructive. Wait, I should rephrase that. He is always a busy man. In addition to being the hired gun that never rests, he is back with his gathering of deadheaded, rock and roll pros in Dead On Live! The name says it all. Muller is a person I always take notice of when he has a project on the scene and this one should appeal to the Jerry Garcia aficionados with “Sugar Magnolia” to spare.
Muller’s list of accomplishments is a home run. He came to prominence as a player for Shania Twain. As a touring musician, Marc spent nine years (1995–2004) as a multi-instrumentalist with the country music superstar with highlights being 2004’s Super Bowl, The Grammys and London’s Party In The Park In Hyde Park, as well as several network TV specials. If that was not enough, he has also logged time with Styx’s Tommy Shaw, Steve Forbert, Branford Marsalis and many more. Marc is also a featured soloist on Bruce Springsteen’s release, Wrecking Ball, playing lap steel on “You’ve Got It.”
Dead On Live! captures the most important period of the Grateful Dead’s existence and it is a “dead on” note-for-note presentation. Other members in this jumbo sized band are David Anthony, Erik Boyd, John Merjave, Scott Rednor, Eric Lee Troyer, Brian Kolins and Sandy Mack. The band will be appearing in Monmouth County at the Pollack Auditorium at Monmouth University in West Long Branch on April 13. For more info on the show, head over to deadonlive.com.