Jake Andrews: Train Back Home Review

Blues rock was swamped with teenage hotshots in the genre’s mid-’90s semi-revival (Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, to name two), but the name of Austin wonderkid Jake Andrews is perhaps forgotten in that regard.

Coming from the same proudly hip city as Texan guitar maestro Stevie Ray Vaughan, don’t be swayed into dismissing Andrews as another SRV wannabe. I can assure you my late father’s record collection would’ve been far poorer without his stunning debut LP Time To Burn. Released in 1999, Andrews was just 19 at the time, but adolescence didn’t hold him back. The songwriting cooks, and the then-adolescent plays and sings with maturity beyond his years.

Only three albums have followed since — the last being 2017’s In The Shadows, but his new album Train Back Home sees the now road-tested, seasoned veteran go off the beaten track with this all-instrumental composition. My initial reaction was to be gutted as I’m a big fan of Andrew’s fiery, soulful pipes, but I’ve heard enough of his intense, passionate, and electrifying guitar playing to know it’s prudent to wait until the last stop of the line.

A 10-track mix of original songs and select covers, he opens with a mesmerizing interpretation of King Curtis’s “Soul Serenade.” In full flow from start to finish, Andrews plays with speed and precision, but even more importantly, guts and guile.  

“Eyes On The Prize” has a jazz fusion vein, showcasing the melodic ear and versatility of Andrews. Even when he furiously crams in notes, he gives them room to breathe. It’s a wonderfully framed track, propelled by the tight interplay and nuanced sensibility of bassist Corey Britz, drummer Alvino Bennett, and Mike Thompson on keyboards. “Ain’t It Funky Now” hits the sweet spot thanks to its superb rhythm section, while Andrews and Thompson go on an interplay rampage in a bullish rework of the timeless 60s rock instrumental “Apricot Brandy” by Rhinoceros.

The title track pulls in just past the halfway stage, and it’s an epic, spanning close to 10 minutes. A pounding riff runs through the heart of it, with Andrews and Thompson again trading furious lead bursts. This type of music is not easily defined,  but it sniffs out some commonalities with the world of instrumental, virtuoso rock guitar, and the impulsive nature of jazz fusion.

Andrews even has a stab at an underrated cut from Hendrix’s psychedelic world with his own otherworldly version of “Burning Of The Midnight Lamp.” Reflective and sad, it’s lit up by a creative wah-wah intro, before some terrific guitar builds to a vastly layered climax.

Whatever label you give Train Back Home, you can’t argue with the quality of musicianship on display here. Each complements the other with subtle perfection. Even though the Andrews on show here burns very differently from the raw talent of 1999, there’s still plenty of fire (and talent) rumbling in his belly.

The Review: 8.5/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Eyes On The Prize
– Ain’t It Funky Now
– Train Back Home

The Big Hit

– Train Back Home

Buy the album: Amazon

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