|Celebrating ten years as one of hardest working bands in the mid-Atlantic area, contemporary blues/roots rock quartet, Jon Spear Band, are set to release their fourth album, B-Side Of My Life. Coming out of a lockdown that took the central Virginia band off the road and into the studio to record its third studio album allowed time to stretch out and explore new musical routes and journeys they call a collection of B-sides, like the old 45 records that sometimes yielded a surprise hit song. With a style built around the dual guitar attack of Jon Spear and Dara James, who share lead vocal duties with bass player Andy Burdetsky, while drummer John Stubblefield keeps the pulse deep in the pocket, they create a pallet of blues, funk, rock, soul, and Americana. Guest keyboardist, Skip Haga, added depth to the eleven new originals and two select covers that address a wide range of topics equally introspective and humorous in their scope.
Although Spear is the primary songwriter and the namesake of the band, he spreads around the lead vocals to suit the compositions as with the opening track “Big Talk,” a funk rocker about a man done wrong, followed by the Latin flavored “Heartbeat Like A Samba,” both sung with flair by James with his sparkling tenor. Spear then steps in to lead the band though the acoustic driven tale of meeting a traditional healer on a mountain top, who calmly gives us hope for the world in “The Shaman,” and the old-time rock ‘n’ roll title track that employs the metaphor of improbable hit records as a chance at redemption, and features barrelhouse piano from Haga. Burdetsky lays down a knee-deep bass groove for a faithful reading of Neville Brothers’ favorite “Yellow Moon.”
The mysterious and expansive “Follow The Light” pushes the group’s genre boundary far past the confines of a “Blues Band.” A gritty guitar lead matches the edgy vocals from Burdetsky on the driving reflection of the past year’s tumultuous times of a pandemic and mass protests during “Kick In The Head,” written by producer Andy Waldeck. James sings about his fear of creepy-crawly things on the jagged bumping “Snakes And Spiders,” but you get the feeling he isn’t talking about arachnids and reptiles but two-legged creatures that lurk in the shadows. The minor key rumble, “Can’t Have Nothing,” written and sung by Burdetsky, is a scathing examination of our so called “first world problems” of the modern west.
James sinks his teeth into the soul ballad “Darker Side,” from Jonny Lang’s debut album, delivering a stirring performance on lead guitar and vocals. Every middle-aged man can relate to the tale of an endearing pack rat “My Old T Shirts” and the fishing channel has a new theme song in the 70’s acid rock anthem about an angler’s obsession “The Muskie Grind.” Everyone gets into the act on album closer “Time For The Blues,” a swinging tribute to all the heroes past and present and the music that has brought so many of us together.
This fun-loving collection of B-sides from the Jon Spear Band is bound to bring joy to its listeners, if not a spot on the top of the charts.
Rick J Bowen
Nominated for the prestigious Blues Blast Magazine award for best Live Blues Recording of 2016, the Jon Spear Band performs regularly in the US mid-Atlantic area where it has entertained appreciative audiences at numerous outdoor festivals, clubs, and other popular venues since 2012. Known for their award-winning original songs, red-hot live shows, and unique arrangements of blues standards, the band’s previous three albums charted in the U.S., France, UK, Spain, and Australia including the annual top one hundred Roots Music Report Contemporary Blues Chart for the past three consecutive years. Based in Central Virginia, the band’s members are Jon Spear (guitar and vocals), Andy Burdetsky (bass), John Stubblefield (drums) and Dara James (lead vocals and guitar plus harmonica).
- Blues Blast Magazine nominee for Best Live Blues Recording of 2016.
- Opening act for nationally touring acts Debbie Davies, Delbert McClinton, Anson Funderburgh, the Iguanas, the Chris Duarte Group, Memphis Gold, Junior Brown, and more.
- Released three albums achieving high rankings on blues radio charts in the U.S., France, UK, Australia, and Spain, including the annual top one hundred Roots Music Report Contemporary Blues Chart for the past three consecutive years. The band also released a single in 2019.
- Extensive airplay on over one hundred stations worldwide, including SiriusXM Bluesville Rack of Blues “Picks to Click.”
- Selected to compete at the 31st and 33rd International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN; 2017 IBC Finalist for Best Self-Produced CD.
- 2016 WAMMIE nominee for best Blues/Traditional R&B Recording (Washington Area Music Association).