Conscious Contact – Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons
Terminus Records 0202-2
Like a few other artists I’ve encountered in my jambands.com tenure, Jerry
Joseph is a singer/songwriter playing the jamband card because other avenues
for this sort of artistry have shut down. (Be grateful, Tom Petty — time
was on your side.) An association with Widespread Panic is his chief claim
to fame, and Dave Schools produced this disc, with other Panic members
guesting, as well as Chuck Leavell and Randall Bramlett. However, this is
not a jamband effort, but a record that would have garnered major label
attention had it come twenty years earlier.
Joseph’s music suggests an American take on the early singer-songwriter/punk
hybrid of Elvis Costello and Graham Parker, and he has a similar talent and
bite. Words are his fortbut his vocal delivery also has an impressive
snarl and his music helps get his points across. He also manages to vary
the single-frontman power trio setting enough to sustain interest through
the 12 tracks, with departures such as the Imperial Bedroom synths of
"Ching-a-Ling"‘s bridge or the Fender Rhodes mellowness of "Muscle".
As with Parker and Costello, there are obstacles to commercial appeal even
if one imagines an era not dominated by corporate grunge and boy bands.
Joseph focuses on overcoming addictions and other personal shortcomings and
dealing with the loss of friends (two dedications), and even the repose of
"Pure Life" and "Muscle" suggests a lot of travail behind it. However,
Joseph retains interest even when moving away from the potential-hit-single
terrain "The Kind Of Place" (which the publicity material likens to Petty —
did Petty ever manage such bitterness?) to the more obscure, personal
references which come to dominate the lyrics as the disc progresses.
This is music that deserves to be heard, and although Joseph doesn’t delve
into the music-industry-complaint song here as many others in his boat have,
he would have every right to if this disc fails to find him the proper