Harmonica magus Jason Ricci is one of the modern faces of blues rock. Known for being able of pulling both vigorous, blistering bursts and melodic, slow voice-like leads with the exact same prowess, he’s also an excellent songwriter and a proficient lead singer. The multiple Blues Music Award winner’s newest project is a collaboration with accomplished organist/pianist Joe Krown. The New Orleans-styled player, whose impeccable skills are one of the most requested in the business, is currently a member of Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s band. Backed by drummer Doug Belote, the duo presents the aptly titled City Country City, their debut album.
The record, which is comprised of 12 tracks, split between covers and originals, offers a combination of jazz, funk and blues and is structured around the classic jazz/blues “organ trio” format, with Ricci’s harmonica replacing the habitual saxophone. An unusual, yet promising approach, whose outcome is revealed in the first moments of the opening title track. “City Country City” is a jazzy instrumental number that alternates its harmonica leads between melodious lines and rugged runs. This interchange, typical of Ricci’s style (as mentioned earlier), features heavily on the record, with one approach or the other eventually predominating in specific tracks. Such is the case of “Badger The Witness”, a song defined by its odd time-signature, gritty vocals and abrasive harmonica sound.
The country-flavored instrumental cut “It Starts With Me”, on the other hand, showcases Ricci’s tender side and features some graceful harmonica phrasing. Another song worthy of further attention is the blues number that follows, “Down At The Juke”, which illustrates Krown’s skills. The song demonstrates that, in addition to efficiently providing the groundwork for Ricci’s gymnastics, the organist can be an excellent, organic soloist. All of these aspects culminate in the album’s crown jewel, the thumping rendition of Johnny Moore’s “Drifting Blues”. In the track, Ricci executes a glorious, emotionally charged solo, making the most out of the harmonica’s relatively short melodic range.
City Country City may be difficult to assimilate at first, given its lack of catchy singles and relevant rock elements, but it is certainly a fine effort by two of the most important present-day blues performers.
The Review: 7.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– City Country City
– It Starts With Me
– Down At The Juke
– Drifting Blues
The Big Hit
– Drifting Blues