|After working hard to establish himself on the Pacific Northwest music scene by playing in several popular bands, winning 18 “Best Of The Blues” awards from the Washington Blues Society and signing on as a featured Lee Oskar harmonica artist, singer-songwriter, blues harp man and graphic artist, Joel Astley, is poised to burst on to the national scene with his debut solo album, Seattle To Greaseland. The collection of eleven original songs was recorded at Greaseland Studios in San Jose, CA by acclaimed producer and multi-instrumentalist Kid Andersen, who invited some of his “Greaseland Regulars” to join in on the weekend jam sessions. In the mix is Chicago guitarist Johnny Burgin and Charlie Musselwhite’s rhythm section, drummer June Core and Randy Bermudes on bass, with backup singers Marina Crouse and Jill Dineen, while Astley brought in his talent as a clever lyricist, accomplished vocalist, and hot blues harp player. The songs are a blend of authentic styles from straight ahead blues to classic R&B, jump, swing, and a sweet gospel number that together create the unique vibe of West Coast blues.
The opening track, “Born Cryin’,” has a swampy down-on-the-bayou-feel with Astley spelling out how the blues is in everyone’s soul, with Kid and Johnny each testifying to the fact with smoking guitar solos. The jump blues “Candy Shop” rips at a furious sugar-fueled pace with Astley and Andersen sparing on harp and Hammond B3. Astley turns the notion of hard luck and trouble on its head during the honky-tonk blues bouncer “Just Right” and points out how the universe eventually finds a way of balancing the scales on the slinky reverb soaked “Karma Wheel.” Andersen pumps the clavinet and Core drives the groove of the ultra-funky “Secondhand Kid,” highlighting some of Astley’s most snarky lines.
The vaudeville number, “Takin’ It With Me,” has theatrical flair of a pre-war tin pan alley song and the gents keep it swinging hard on “Hot As Hell,” a sure-fire dance floor filler that features sizzling leads from Burgin. The ladies join Astley on the chorus of the old-time rock ‘n’ roll anthem, “Down To The Rims,” and on the piece of sage advice set to angular beat “Work With You Got.” Astley commemorates a long-lost Seattle club ‘88 Keys,’ which helped launch his career and everyone who was “in the know” called “Bobby’s Place.” The album closes with Astley and the crew taking us to church on the gospel two beat “No Brighter Gold,” celebrating the pure joy music brings to the world.
With a little help from his friends Joel Astley should be adding more accolades to his collection after the release of this excellent record.
Rick J Bowen
Joel Astley came to music after many years of working as a visual artist. Since forming his first band in 2014, he has been recognized by the Washington Blues Society with multiple “Best Of The Blues” Awards including Best Harmonica (2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2023), Best Male Vocalist (2019, 2021, 2022), Best Songwriter (2020, 2021, 2023), and Best Performer (2023). He earned his reputation as a bandleader while performing with numerous northwest bands, and he is now leading his own award-winning band. He performs all over the Pacific Northwest, has appeared on several recordings, and has performed and toured with many national blues artists. His recent recording sessions at Greaseland Studios will be released as a debut album.