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Jeremy Spencer - Bend in the Road


17 tracks/76:20

Once a member of the original, legendary Fleetwood Mac line-up that included Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer was the band's slide guitar wizard, channeling the classic Elmore James style. Spencer also lent his vocal skills to rockabilly tunes that energized the live Fleetwood Mac shows, being especially adept at Elvis and Buddy Holly songs. Spencer left the band after Green and delved deep into his Christian faith. He released three solo recordings in the 70's before dropping out of sight, a hiatus that lasted over thirty years until he reappeared in 2006 with the critically acclaimed Precious Little album on Blind Pig Records.

The new project is available in two formats. The limited edition, double-LP version was available in April as part of the International Record Store Day celebration. It contains seventeen cuts, including four tracks that are exclusive to the vinyl format. The cover is a watercolor done by Spencer. The CD version will have fourteen tracks that adds one song, “Homework”, that is not on the LP set.

Fans of his Fleetwood Mac days will relish performances like Spencer's reworking of Homesick James Williamson's “Homesick” and his rendition of “Stranger Blues” rocks harder than any of the other tracks. Spencer also covers one of Elmore James' classics, although you will be hard pressed to recognize it at first as Spencer strips away the blues influences from the opening segment of “The Sun is Shining” before settling into the familiar progression. Spencer also fills out the arrangement on piano, showing his talents aren't limited to the guitar.

Another Elmore James number, “Cry for My Baby”, has a light-hearted feel despite the despair described in the lyrics. “Strange Woman” melds biblical references to darker hued tune to describe the dangers of an enchanting woman. Spencer revisits his rock&roll roots on “Earthquake”, detailing his experiences during an actual event several decades ago in Greece. “I Walked a Mile with Sorrow” is done in a country rock mode with lyrics based on a poem by Robert Browning.

The remaining tracks expose Spencer's wide-ranging musical interests. “Whispering Fields” is a gentle country-styled instrumental while “Secret Sorrow” is highlighted by Spencer's yearning vocal. The contemplative “Merciful Sea” finds Spencer alone on piano for the first time. The swinging instrumental “Jambo” has Spencer adopting a darker tone than usual for his slide guitar. The other guitarist on the project, Brett Lucas, delivers a sharp solo. “Refugees” is an earnest rock number that ends with a spirited exchange between Spencer and Lucas.

The title cut is another Spencer tune that reminds us of the power of hope with a fine backing vocal from Rachel May. Other band members include James Simonson on bass, Todd Glass on drums & percussion, Molly Hughes on violin, Mimi Morris and Stefan Koch on cello with Duncan McMillan on accordion.

There may not be a lot of musical fireworks on this one but Jeremy Spencer has crafted a package that displays the breadth of his talents – singer, songwriter, guitarist, pianist and illustrator. His refreshing approach is a welcome respite from the world of amped-up guitars and over-bearing singers.

Reviewer Mark Thompson retired after twelve years as president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. and moved to Florida. He has been listening to music of all kinds for over fifty years. Favorite musicians include Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Magic Slim, Magic Sam, Charles Mingus and Count Basie.

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