With his third album, The Road to Mississippi, acoustic country blues picker J.P. Reali creates a release that is enjoyable, though difficult to judge or compare, mainly because so few people actually do it. Reali has created a true acoustic blues album, reminiscent of the days of Reverend Gary Davis, Son House and Skip James.
By and large, Reali does a very nice job playing the old acoustic blues. He starts and ends the album with short instrumental pieces called “Prelude” and “Coda” respectively, which serve as a nice sort of dedication to the album, dedication to the roots from which Reali sprung. In between, there are ten tracks, one of which is a full band. Most others are either Reali playing solo or with very limited accompaniment. Reali’s guitar work is very good and extremely authentic on every track. He combines some modern vocabulary with authentic old-school blues to create a fresh sound. “Jefferson Lament” is an example of an old holler blues, one that is outside of time and consists of call and response between Reali’s guitar and voice. While that tune is nice, along with many of the other old-school tunes, the problem is that Reali’s voice doesn’t always lend itself to the style. He has a strong, edgy, good voice. But, he lacks the proper timbre: the wailing quality of Skip James and Reverend Gary Davis. He voice also isn’t quite raspy enough to be truly authentic.
However, Reali makes up for this shortcoming with a slew of unique tunes. Towards the middle of the album, Reali stops trying to be completely serious and includes a couple of almost light-hearted blues tunes, consisting of himself and harp player Mark Wenner. These tracks, “Dark, Strong and Steaming” and “Cool Steel Blues” work perfectly with Reali’s voice. Both are laid back, not completely serious and just turn into the two best tracks on the album.
All in all, this is a solid release by Reali. For any listener interested in a modern interpretation of a very old (and often lost) style of blues, Reali provides a welcome addition to the blues vernacular.
The Review: 7.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
- Dark, Strong and Steaming
- Cool Steel Blues
The Big Hit
- Cool Steel Blues
Review by Nik Rodewald