HOLY ROLLER Brother JT

Spreading the rock
gospel and squeezin’ that sweet ol’ jelly roll.

 

BY A.D. AMOROSI

 

 

John Terlesky, the Philadelphia
singer, lyricist and guitarist they call Brother JT, makes holy rolling garage
rock touched as much by the divinity of the Trinity as it is the odd gods of
spindly psychedelia.

 

Hallelujah.

 

From 2002’s Spirituals through to more recent fare such as Doomsday
Rock
, Holy Ghost Stories and the
newly-released Jelly Roll Gospel, Terlesky’s
openly flaunted his continuing fascination with God’s music – or at least his
idea of His idea. “Firstly, I was raised Catholic, and that tends to stick with
you, so things are still going through that old filter,” says JT.

 

Part of it – Terlesky’s big IT – like the album titles, and
even the name Brother JT, is just kind of a motif or hook. “Somewhere along the
way I started taking the tongue-in-cheek approach of the whole Brother JT thing
being a ‘ministry’ and the shows would be like tent meeting sermons, etcetera,
except with acid rock instead of genuine gospel music. Kinda jokey; but not
completely.”

 

Because Terlesky’s songs were and are generally sincere about
what they’re trying to say (á la Jelly Roll Gospel‘s “Ribbon Driver”),
when the conditions are right you can feel a sort of whirling dervish-like
communion that JT has with his audience while in the throes of playing this
kind of music., both live and on-record.

 

“That’s the spiritual part that keeps me interested,” he
says, of the sincerity-based connectivity factors found in his music. (A
further explanation of this subject can be found, via a lengthy rant titled
“Jesus Guitar” at www.brotherjt.com.)

 

Though a religious man, Terlesky may not always be a
church-goer. Though I dare – and he dares – to say that there’s an
unexplainable joy that he feels at the oddest times that come with little or no
explanation. “Certain pieces of music, the way light looks on things at
sundown, noises the cat makes – these are things I would interpret as some kind
of connection to a Big Other Thing. I don’t even want to try and figure it out;
[I] just keep it way on the back burner and try to enjoy things.”

 

Some of his newest songs, like “Accident Was Waiting,” sound
exasperated, almost futile and empty, in regards to their futures found in
Heaven or on Earth. “You kinda just get plopped here, like an empty hard drive,
and stuff starts programming you. I really don’t feel like we have a whole lot
of say in how we turn out, because even our reactions to things are determined
by earlier programming. So if you have any self-awareness you know on some
level the way things are going to go, and you feel helpless to do anything
about it because you’re hard-wired to be that way.”

Hopefully it’s something good that you’re supposed to do beyond that
hard-wiring. That’s Terlesky’s prayer. Beyond making extended versions of God’s
good Word courtesy Jelly Roll Gospel,
there’s something less divine on his agenda. “I was thinking about throwing my
hat into the ring, though I guess it’s getting late. And I don’t own a hat. But
I think I might have some unusual options for America. My slogan would be ‘I’m
For Sweatpants – It’s Where We’re Going’. Oh well, maybe in 2012… Then again,
that’s when the Mayan thing happens. OK, never mind.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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