|When presenting any southern styled dish, whether it be fried, smoked, stewed or barbeque you must accompany it with a generous side of Hot Sauce. The award-winning Virginia quartet The Jon Spear Band knows this to be a universal truth and applied the axiom to the recording of their third album that carries that tasty title, “Hot Sauce,” recorded at Ravensworth Studios by veteran producer Andrew Waldeck. The dozen new original tracks written by Spear and other bandmembers, are a mixture of rhythms and styles, from good time party songs to serious socio-political statements, all delivered with soul and fire.
The blues rocker, ‘Bottom of the Bottle,’ opens the album and could be its edgiest track. Guitarist Dara James teamed up with producer Andrew Waldeck to write this ominous vignette around young men, who are hell bent on finding trouble. The song features Dara’s skillful guitar work with a great performance by the JSB rhythm section: bassist Andy Burdetsky, drummer John Stubblefield and band leader Jon Spear. Set to a spicy calypso rhythm, ‘Geographical Cure’ reminds folks that sometimes the best medicine is a change of scene. Picture the palm trees swaying in warm breezes, and island sunsets, that could provide a healing balm. ‘It Was A Really Great Gig’ gives Spear a chance to show off his rockabilly chops in an uproarious (and mostly true) tale about what can happen when a band’s lead singer starts flirting with the girlfriend of a local tough guy.
The classic R&B title track ‘Hot Sauce,’ written by Andy Burdetsky and Andrew Waldeck, is an ode to capsaicin, the magical ingredient that gives chili peppers their heat. Andy drew his inspiration from his years of experience growing an amazing variety of chili peppers and blending them into tasty gourmet sauces that are available only to his closest and most special friends. One special friend on this track is well known saxman Ron Holloway who has performed with some of the biggest names in the business. In the timely parable ‘Noah’s Blues’ Noah returns to earth in a dream to discover that his animals have not fared well. Poaching, trophy hunting, loss of habitat and other ills cause him to lament: “I saved God’s creatures from the flood, and now I wonder why.” The swinging blues progression features a powerful guitar solo by Dara James. For the tale of a gambling man ‘Pierre Jourdan,’ Jon and Dara put away their electric guitars and deliver an acoustic duet on this Jon Spear original tune set in 19th century New Orleans about how one of city’s richest men became its most famous ghost. The grooving ‘Hit The Quarter’ is a hot dance floor number that is guaranteed to have folks up out of their chairs and hollering. Dara delivers a deep lament for the plight of a homeless man on the Torch Blues ‘Wintertime.’ The Jon Spear Band are not willing to pull punches and there are a lot of bare-knuckle lines in ‘Blues For A Soldier,’ which memorializes the sacrifices of the men and women in uniform, who have their boots on the ground, and their loved ones. Additional songs on the CD include “Butt-Dial Kyle,” a humorous look at the faux pas of a bumbling cell phone user, and “Cheap Whiskey and Stale Cigarettes,” about rebounding from a broken home.
The album closes with ‘Natchez Burning,’ an original song about the tragic 1940 fire at the Rhythm Night Club in Natchez MS that claimed the lives of over 200 people including bandleader Walter Barnes and most of his Royal Creoleans orchestra. The owner of the club had closed off all the windows and exits to thwart gatecrashers with the result that people could not escape once the fire broke out. This evocative song is performed mostly a cappella and captures both the excitement people felt anticipating the performance of the famous orchestra and the tragic aftermath of the fire. Dara James sings the emphatic lead backed by solemn gospel voices, followed by a cinematic instrumental coda.
Rick J Bowen
The Jon Spear Band is a collaboration of some of Central Virginia’s finest and most dedicated blues musicians, brought together by their love of blues music and their active participation in the Central Virginia Blues Society. Although their ages span several generations, the band’s members share a common determination to use their exceptional talents to create unique and memorable music. The Jon Spear Band has existed with various personnel changes since 2012. Members include Dara James (guitar, vocals and harmonica), Andy Burdetsky (bass), John Stubblefield (drums), and Jon Spear (guitar and vocals).