Blues musicians are known for choosing catchy words to use as part of their name and more often than not, that’s all it is – a catchy word. That said, Jon English is not one of them. You see, having experienced abandonment as a child, the word “orphan” may very well have been tagged on him rather than chosen by him. Whatever the case, by calling the band Orphan Jon, he has obviously embraced the moniker and by calling his CD “Abandoned No More” he’s obviously, and thankfully, in a much better place right now as well.
Orphan Jon consists of: Jon English on vocals; Bruce Krupnik on guitar and cigar box guitar; Tony Jack Grisby on bass; and Stan Whiting on drums. Guest artist’s on the project include: Barry Levenson (the disc’s producer) and Johnny Main on guitar; JR Lozano on drums; Mike Malone on piano; Mike Sandberg on percussion; and Hank Van Sickle on bass. “Abandoned No More” contains twelve original tracks with all of them penned or collaborated on by Jon.
Wanting to be influenced by what I hear and not what I read, I never read one sheets or liner notes prior to having listened to a CD at least twice. That said, I have to tell you that I couldn’t agree more with Barry Levenson’s comment stating that “Jon English is one of the finest vocalists I’ve heard in a long time.” After those first few listens, I was thinking the exact same thing.
The opening track is an impressive introduction to the band. It’s a smoker that features the nucleus of the band, with some extra “Backbone” being provided by percussionist Mike Sandberg, just totally rockin’ out. Right out of the box I’m being blown away by Jon’s vocal skills, range and note holding abilities.
The term “Vicious Circle” is never used to reference anything good. Never! In this case the viciousness being circled around is that of a man not treating his woman right and that same woman not treating her man right. Who’s at fault depends on who you ask. Hence, that vicious circle. This one features Jon and Bruce just killing it on the vocals and lead guitar, and considering the extraordinary talent these two have – combined with their long history together – you’re going to hear me say that quite often. Also outstanding is the rhythm coming from the hands of Tony Jack and JR, on the bass and drums, and a stellar performance by guest pianist Mike Malone.
Jon, I want to personally thank you and Bruce for writing this song, because it perfectly echoes my thoughts on the music as well – “Leave My Blues Alone.”
“Bring it more to date
Is what you say you want to do
But you ain’t supposed to change it
It’s supposed to change you.”
To those words, I say “Amen brothers!”
As a matter of fact, ALL of what you say in this song is so worthy of repeating that I’m tempted to sit here and type out the lyrics word for word. However, with the intense passion and absolute conviction with which you present them, and the fact that I’ve never in my life heard such a perfect song so perfectly sung, I believe they need to be heard by listening to you sing them. Additionally, the solemn mood Tony Jack, Stan and Mike create on rhythm and percussion and the eerie, spine tingling guitar licks by Barry are all masterful as well. At eleven minutes long – plus all the replays – I’ve just taken about an hour to write these few paragraphs and it was indeed an hour well spent. If this recording makes it into the hands of the right people I’m betting that I just heard next years song of the year nominee sung by next years vocalist of the year nominee.
Musically, this one’s a bit different from the rest but nevertheless, it’s another of this disc’s many highlights. “Only She Will Do” starts out with a slow, mystery movie type beat and then out of nowhere it turns into an upbeat, jazzy, bossa nova type groove. And then there is that vocalist….. have I told you how masterful he’s been yet?
When bands contact me asking if I’d be interested in hearing their music for possible review, my reply is very up front concerning the fact that although there can be exceptions, over the top rock blues AND acoustic blues are not in my wheelhouse. Knowing that, you now understand that moving me with an acoustic song takes some doing and “Memories Of Me And You” just moved me. On this acoustic duet, Jon and Bruce do as outstanding a job performing it as they did writing it. Nice job, guys!
Other songs on this most impressive release include: “Blood Moon,” “Dance For Me Girl,” “Drive Me Crazy,” “Love Night,” “Medusa,” “Cold Man Blues,” and “Sowin’ Seeds.”
Of the approximately 50 reviews I do each year I occasionally advise my readers that the particular CD I’m reviewing is a must have CD. Yeah, you guessed it – this is a must have CD.
By now, most blues radio hosts should have a copy of the disc but should you not, just contact KayKay Jagger at ripcatrecords.com. The rest of you just go visit Orphan Jon at www.orphanjon.com. As usual, please tell everyone that Pete the Blewzzman sent you.