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Billy Lee Janey – No Saints Ringin’ The Bells


17 tracks; 72.06 minutes

Iowa native Billy Lee Janey has been recording since the 1970s in a series of rock bands. His latest release appears on the Rockadrome label whose strapline is “The Rock And Roll Heavy Metal Store And Label”, so I guess we were warned! This is definitely at the far edge of the blues rock area, with some occasional nods in the direction of the blues but takes the music a lot further into rock territory than, say, Walter Trout or Popa Chubby. So, if those artists are too rock for you, best to avoid this one.

Billy Lee handles all the lead guitar and vocal duties, with John Hall on 7 (!) string bass and Troy Harper on drums. The rhythm section is replaced on three tracks by Danny Johnson on bass and Eric Douglas on drums and Billy Lee’s son Bryce (also a recording artist on the same label) helps out on acoustic guitar on two cuts. All material is original apart from two instrumentals; a short adaptation of Grieg’s “Hall Of The Mountain King” and “Dark Eyes” which is uncredited.

Much of the CD is definitely in hard rock mode, so I have concentrated on the tracks where the music is most likely to intersect with blues fans’ interests. “Delta Man” sounds like a good title and the lyrics certainly reference common blues themes such as the Devil coming down to the Crossroads on Highway 61. There is some slide playing on a steel guitar, but that is mainly lost in a maelstrom of heavy drums, wah-wah guitar and sound effects. “Killin’ The Blues” is a song that talks of killing the blues before they can harm his soul. However, the guitar is again strident. More enjoyable is “Painted Ryder”, an instrumental with something of an underlying shuffle beat. Closing track “Better Stick With The Blues” is an acoustic cut and is definitely closer to what a blues fan will enjoy.

As a singer Billy Lee’s voice works OK. At times he sounds a little like Jimmy Thackery or Tinsley Ellis, both singers I enjoy. This is not a blues album though fans of albums with a lot of guitar pyrotechnics may enjoy it.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.

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