|“If you are not familiar with The Bush League, they are one of the hardest working bands in the Central Virginia area, a semi-finalist at the 2012 and 2017 International Blues Challenge, and one of those groups that have all the talent and drive to make a deep mark on the world of blues.” John Porter, Time For The Blues, WCVE-FM
The Bush League was founded on a front porch in 2007 not too far outside Richmond, Virginia by college friends JohnJason “JohnJay” Cecil and Royce Folks. The combination of JohnJay’s soulful voice and Royce’s rock-solid bass playing lays the foundation for “RVA Blues,” a heady mélange of funk, soul, gospel, and rock all wrapped up in the love of the blues, particularly North Mississippi Hill Country Blues. They are joined by Wynton Davis who keeps the groove on drums.
They traveled to Ardent studios in Memphis TN to record their fourth album, “James RiVAh,” with friends and guests from the birthplace of the blues. The twelve tracks (ten originals and two standards) all revolve around the soulful voice of charismatic lead vocalist John Jason “JohnJay” Cecil, who is bolstered by the rock-solid rhythm section of Royce Folks on the bass and drummer Wynton Davis together with Brad Moss on guitar. For this album, they also brought in some great guest players including Trenton Ayers of the Cedric Burnside Project, Jeremy Powell from Southern Avenue on trumpet and keyboards, Suavo Jones from the Ghost Town Blues Band on trombone, Paul Biasca on sax, and Vince Johnson on harp.
The opening track ‘Rivers Edge’ is a Deep Blues stomp that pays tribute to the loving waters of the James River that runs through Richmond. A loose and playful romp thru Fred McDowell’s standard ‘Kokomo Me Baby’ flows easily into the neo soul ballad ‘Say Yes,’ with Cecil doing his best Luther Vandross. Jeremy Powell adds hot keys to the funky ‘Show You Off,’ and Davis whips out all his gospel chops overtop the slow burning cover of the Muddy Waters’ classic ‘Catfish Blues.’ Some tasty horns rev up the hill country party anthem ‘Kick Up Your Heals.’ Cecil demonstrates his skill as a bard, with the compelling lyrics and heavy drama of the gritty rocker ‘Hearse,’ and the witty, my baby done me wrong song ‘Tuxedo Blues.’ The ode to homemade hooch ‘Moonshine,’ is arguably the album’s most radio ready track with its clever update of classic barrelhouse blues and juke joint shout. The Bush League take us to church for a real stomp and holler frenzy, on the cathartic album closer ‘What’s Wrong With You,’ ending with the simple RVA exclamation ”There It Go!”
Rick J Bowen
Over the years, The Bush League (TBL) has been playing the blues and paying its dues on the 21st century version of the “Chitlin’ Circuit”, playing bars, restaurants, private parties, wineries, weddings, in front of the bathroom at the VA State Fair, and various festivals throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Deep South. You name it TBL has probably played it. The band’s willingness to turn down nothing but their collar has allowed them to hone their craft to razor sharpness.
All that honing and evolving has begun to pay off as TBL has gone from playing in the middle of a field on flattened cardboard boxes to the Bentonia Blues Festival, the Carolina Blues Festival and the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic. TBL has opened for some of the biggest names in the blues today including Jarekus Singleton, Selwyn Birchwood, Biscuit Miller & the Mix, Samantha Fish and Lil Ed & the Blues Imperials, to name just a few.
Known for its energetic live shows, TBL keeps the blues alive by continuing to push the boundaries of what the blues can be. “RVA Blues” creates a visual soundscape that evokes images of times gone by but still relatable to today’s audience. “Rough,” “aggressive,” and “Workingman’s Blues” are all descriptions by others of their music, but the band prefers to call it simply “shiny new dirty ol’ blues.”