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Ivas John Band - Look Who’s Crying Now

Live at BB’s

10 tracks Total time: 46:15

Look Who’s Crying Now is the first CD of the Live at BB’s label, a product of BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soups music venue in St. Louis, Missouri.

St. Louis, and across the Mississippi River, E. St. Louis, Illinois, have distinguished blues traditions: St. Louis was, of course, the home of St. Louis Jimmy, as well as that of Henry Townsend, while Yank Rachell lived there in the early 1940s; this area later gave forth with Chuck Berry and Albert King. The Ivas John Band, playing here as a quintet in a live setting, admirably carries on this tradition. Bandleader/ singer/guitarist John is joined by Brad Bell on keyboards, with guest Rytas Vygantas on tenor sax, while comprising the rhythm section are Charlie Morrill on drums and background vocals, and Mike Alderfer on bass. Eight of the ten tracks are originals written by Ivas John and Edward John Bambrauskas. Of the other two, one is a straight-ahead modern Chicago blues, Willie Dixon’s “Who,” rendered in a driving, churning way on track 8; while the final track is a Blind Willie McTell traditional country blues, “Come Around To My House Mama,” that’s been delightfully and effectively re-arranged and rendered as a modern ensemble blues.

The Ivas John Band is one tight ensemble with very able players, and guitarist/vocalist John appropriately uses the keys of Brad Bell and the sax of Rytas Vygantas to good effect, giving each ample space to do their thing as both accompanists and soloists, while also adding appropriate guitar support and solo work himself. His vocals are a gritty, high pitched semi-shout that works effectively throughout. Vygantas, like many modern blues sax players, incorporates elements from modern jazz sax into his blues playing, and gives forth with some elegant solos. Brad Bell is more traditional in his approach to piano and organ, but both sax and keys complement each other well throughout. Extended solos that embrace guitar, sax and keyboards, with each playing a solo part, grace track 3, a “Got My Mojo Workin’”-inflected slide number; and again grace Willie Dixon’s “Who,” with its John Lee Hooker-like elemental churning feel that combines both rawness and sophistication.

There’s a good mixture of up-tempo and slow-tempo numbers on Look Who’s Crying Now, with strong showings on the slow ballad side from track 2, “High Society Woman,” a fairly extensive re-write of “Society Woman,” which Otis Rush did on his Cold Day in Hell album for Delmark; and two pouring-out-the-heart soul ballads reminiscent of Percy Sledge and Otis Redding, track 5’s “Don’t Say I’m Runnin’,” and track 7’s “Good Girl Gone Bad.” “Lucille Lucille,” track 4, is a medium-tempo steady rockin’ number, while “Boo Hoo Baby,” track 6, built as it is around the rock ‘n’ roll-like John Lee Hooker “Boogie Chillun”/Z.Z. Topp “Lagrange” riff, just shakes the house down. Track 9, “The Streetlife,” has an ominous, surrealistic ruefulness in the lyrics that’s accentuated by the darkly moody Latin-beat cast of the music; and “Halfway With You” opens the CD on a solid modern blues note. All these songs on Look Who’s Crying Now are solid in their craftsmanship and are all well-arranged as contemporary urban blues numbers. Further, the Ivas John Band effectively uses the long instrumental introduction on several numbers to nicely set up and lead into the opening vocal lines. Look Who’s Crying Now is a strongly positive, enjoyable live CD from a band that demonstrates very real strengths.

Reviewer George "Blues Fin Tuna" Fish hails from Indianapolis, Indiana, home of blues legends Yank Rachell and Leroy Carr. He has written a regular music column for several years. He wrote the liner notes for Yank Rachell’s Delmark album, Chicago Style. He has been a blues and pop music contributor for the left-wing press as well, and has appeared in Against the Current and Socialism and Democracy.

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