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Published: 2012/02/01
by Brandon Findlay

Jamie McLean Band
Sunday Morning EP

As the Jamie McLean Band’s Year of the EP continues, the second of four planned releases levels its shot across the bluesy bow of their rock & roll cruise. The result is inspired, if not uncharted- serving as a wholly inviting dive into the azure of McLean’s musical past times.

Sunday Morning is singer/songwriter rock that finds a nice crossroads just beneath the surface. Foremost, the all-0riginal set focuses on the post-British Blooze sounds that changed American music and culture. Akin to much of Joe Bonamassa’s work over the last decade, McLean filters that English sensibility into something fresh, without suffering the dictates of whatever staid blueprints the purists lay forth.

To point, it’s not a blues album. And that’s OK. It instead collects seven showcases for McLean’s guitar work and the deepening groove of drummer Brian Griffin and bassist Ben Mars. There’s a certain chemistry that hints at the well-paid dues and much needed perspective of a road-worn soul, bluesman or not.

“I’ve Been Low” is built around a slithering, aggressive slide riffing over Griffin’s pulsating, almost mechanical-sounding percussion bed. Mars’ hearty thump keeps it organic, and McLean gets into the goods with flair and fun, blurring the lines between twelve-bars, pop choruses, and Hill Country drones. If you are a fan of the JMB, you expect the now-trademark harmonies and the boys do not disappoint here either. A strong opener.

Like the proceeding Time Of My Life, the production value can be summed up simply as Big. “Open Up” certainly would not disagree, especially once the drums & bass kick it up a notch and start hammering away a very heavy shuffle under McLean’s solo. Worth noting is that the lyrics that McLean pens are not blues derivatives, and don’t try to mimic or cop that which came before. They’re earnest and human in an age when so many of his contemporaries are stuck in reverse, or worse, in retread. Subject to taste, take his lyrics or leave them, but be glad to find another hand in the minority trying to grow new fruit from old roots.

“Cinderella” opens to the highly welcome sounds of a Fender Strat propelling a tasty, funky backbeat. When John Popper’s signature harp lines come in, the reoccurring theme of the collection comes re-emerges. The harp is bluesy, the guitar sounds bluesy, the story told is bluesy, but the sum effort is not a blues. The pop chorus drives everything further into the festival grounds of Popper’s beloved home unit but McLean’s taste keeps things true to his own direction. On a side note, the fact that the Fender sounds so good in this setting should be a guilt-free indicator that perhaps the Les Paul’s and H535’s can take the occasional break.

“Crazy About You” sounds a bit like Zeppelin reenvisioning Otis Spann’s “T’ain’t Nobodies Business” and is perhaps the song that sticks closest to the blues conventions of late 60’s London. The song could have also fit well on a number of Capricorn Record releases over the years- a satisfying indicator of said refiltration.

“Box of Memories” is akin to the Black Crowes; hinting at country in the verse, swagger in the chorus, and softly swinging the Bo Diddley below it all. A mid-period Beatles/late Bo Diddley mashup it’s not quite, but it’s fun no less.

As retired masters of the modern blues reboot, the specter of the Crowes looms more strongly with “Country Living”, and the brotherly harmonies, Stones chunk, and four-on-the-floor chorus is a sing-along waiting to happen. It’s been said before, but the JMB is really a festival band in so many ways, and songs like this only drive home the point in a good-natured way. And that good-nature tendency is repeated throughout the ‘down home’ touches of the closing “Summertime on Main Street”. As the last EP did, so does this EP end with a soft-hearted yarn from a distant front porch, recalling a bit of small-town life below the summer sun.

A nice half-hour slice of Jamie McLean Band that does as promised- that’s the story of Sunday Morning. Much like the morning-after recollections of the night before, of the week before, the stories are told with not just words but the experience of grooves that prove evocative. Yes, Zeppelin and the Crowes, and for the most part, the Stones are now like yesterdays to be remembered, but with bands like McLean’s subtly keeping certain flames alive, while stoking their own, the feeling doesn’t have to be so bittersweet. Hit JamieMcLeanBand.com or jamiemcleanband.bandcamp.com for more information as well as a “pay what you like” download of the band’s last two releases- they’re worth a lot more than free.

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