St. Louis native and natural-born blues rocker Jeremiah Johnson has stood out greatly in recent years on the scene. His brand of feel-good, working man’s blues rock incorporates elements of funk, soul and country in a, if not exactly groundbreaking, still extremely satisfying blend. With a career already solidified by a number of well-received albums and successful stateside and European tours, he is now adding another compelling chapter to his incredible musical journey with the release of Hi-Fi Drive By.
Produced by Paul Niehaus IV and Tom Maloney and featuring several talented backing musicians, the album, as hinted in its title, features a polished mix and production. Each instrument is captured and calibrated with good accuracy and the sound as a whole has just enough breathing space, which results in a clear and expansive sound. In terms of songwriting, the record is structured around rock and blues’ most notorious and identifiable elements, and the influence of Albert and Freddie King, Steve Cropper, and all that classic Stax and Motown sound is quite notorious, with incisive yet tasty fretwork, huge-sounding horns and swaggering vocals being the record’s driving forces.
The dancing, rip-roaring rocker “68 Coupe Deville” opens the album with all guns blazing and is followed by the equally hard-charging “Ball And Chain” and its remarkable chorus. On the other hand, the lush number “Skippin’ School” leans more towards the classic blues/soul structure and impresses for its engaging delivery while the funk rocker “Hot Diggity Dog” boasts an irresistible hook. Similar in structure, “The Squeeze” features perhaps the album’s best horn passages and guitar solos, in addition to a simply thrilling, addicting chorus.
The R&B-infused and Latin-textured “Hot Blooded Love” keeps the bar high with Johnson’s guitar slashing through with absolute finesse, and the catchy JJ Cale-influenced “Sweet Misery” follows suit. Then, the high-energy cut “Quicksand” brings back the rock-oriented approach and combines it with another delicious funk groove. The song also features a delicious, instantly recognizable saxophone riff.
In summary, Hi-Fi Drive By is a roots-oriented album focused on reclaiming and celebrating the core and already long established elements of blues and rock, and while this approach may seem a bit raw and straightforward for some, the magnetism and quality of Johnson’s passionate approach are undeniable.
The Review: 8/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– 68 Coupe Deville
– Ball and Chain
– The Squeeze
– Hot Blooded Love
The Big Hit
– The Squeeze