Jr. James & the Late Guitar – Draw Blood! Undead @ Stella Blue

January 01, 1970

(A-Tone Music)




Jr. James is a mainstay of the Asheville, NC,
indie-rock scene, and a bit of a maverick, too – as befits someone who, on his
MySpace page, lists as his core influences Blind Blake and William Blake. (Take
that, John McCain.) Said maverick spirit is on full display on Draw Blood!, recorded live a few years
ago at the Stella Blue venue, and featuring James joined by an all-star cast of
locals that includes Band of Horses members Tyler Ramsey and Bill Reynolds.


Things take a pronounced veer early in the set with James’
cover of “Crimson and Clover”; what’s initially a straightforward, garage-pop rendition
suddenly morphs, midsong, into “Dublin,” a kind of jamband take on an electric
Irish jig (Pogues and Horslips fans, take note), replete with a wah-wah solo
and what gets, for my money at least, the award for Best Use Of A Melodica In A
Psychedelic Irish Raveup. Several songs later the club’s knee deep in the blues
standard “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” but I can guarantee ya this ain’t
your mama’s Willie Dixon/Muddy Waters territory the band has ventured into, as
the revised songtitle, “I Just Want to Loop Beats With You,” none-too-subtly
telegraphs: powered by an insistent electro-pulse churn, a grunting/huffing
synth and yet more wah-wah guitar, the tune sounds like – spurious-yet-colorful
comparison alert! – DEVO fronted by Fred Schneider and covering Foghat.


Other fun bits of sonic folderol also go down over the
course of the set, including a slinky dub number, a passage inspired by
Thelonious Monk and a ramshackle snatch of “Werewolves of London” featuring
guest “aaaahh-OOOO” vocals from members of The Figgs, who happened to be in the
audience this night. Yet let us not overlook the original material here, as
it’s every bit as engrossing as the covers: “Brand New Rock” is a hi-nrg slide-guit
romp through classic cowpunk territory (think Jason & the Scorchers meet
The Clash); “American Dream” is a groove-laden, stream-of-consciousness slice
of psychedelic funk; and “Recognize” uses as its jumping-off point the bassline
and chord progression of the Only Ones’ “Another Girl, Another Planet” to serve
up a zinging, zooming powerpop anthem.


All in all, a brief (36 minutes) but memorable excursion
into rock ‘n’ eclectica, a place where some men fear to tread but where,
apparently, the good Mr. James and his cohorts feel utterly at home. Let’s sing
it together, kids: Aaahhh-OOOOO!


Standout Tracks: “Crimson
and Clover/Dublin.” “Recognize,” “American Dream” FRED MILLS




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