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The Soul Of John Black – A Sunshine State Of Mind | Album Review

Yellow Dog Records
10 tracks/38:22

This album is a tribute to the summer months from John A. Bigham, the main contributor for his band The Soul of John Black. He creates plays the majority of instruments and handles the various vocal parts. Additional musician include Oliver Charles who plays live drums on five tracks, Jacob Luttrell or Chris Joyner on electric piano on four tracks and Andre Holmes on bass on a single song.

Bigham certainly makes his influences apparent throughout the disc. “Beautiful Day” is a love ballad that ends up with the singer doing his best Al Green impersonation. The little red corvette that Prince made famous gets mentioned on “East LA Lady”, a tune that rocks a bit harder.  The mood shifts to a lighter feel on “Lenny Love Cha Cha”, sent out to the lovers and dancers, inspired by Lenny Kravitz.

“Too Much Tequila” takes a light-hearted look at the effects of too much of a good thing while preaching the value of having a designated driver. Other songs like “Shake It Off” and “Magic Woman” fail to connect due to basic, repetitive melodies matched with generic lyrics. Bigham’s smooth, soulful voice can’t generate enough excitement to rescue either one.

Compared to the other tracks, “Johnny Bear (Give It to Me)” is a tough number with Bigham engaging in a bit of sexual bravado.  He uses a choppy guitar line on “Lemonade” that faintly captures the Bo Diddley. The song recasts the traditional blues theme of the lemon squeezer into a safe, light summer ditty. “Higher Power” offers one of Bigham’s strongest vocals, again in the Al Green mode, and features Jonell Kennedy on backing vocals. The closing song ‘Summertime Thang” is a breezy ballad that finds the singer holding out hope for a love affair under the warm sun.

You won’t be able to hear much more than a fleeting trace of blues influence on any of the material. And while Bigham at times proves to be a very capable vocalist, it is hard to get traction when the music and lyrics struggle to rise above the mundane. Perhaps he needs to consider hiring a real band, playing real instruments, to inject some power into his compositions.

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