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Joe Zaklan - There Ain’t No Better Time


10 songs; 39:26 minutes

Styles: Modern Electric Blues, Rhythm & Blues, songs with swinging feel-good rhythms

When blues artists record albums or perform live concerts, they exude innate energy. It can be soulful, sly, edgy, funny, and in Joe Zaklan’s case, relaxingly good-natured. Zaklan’s education started in earnest at age twenty when he hit the road with J.B. Hutto, gigging with the slide master in the blues haunts of Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Madison. This talented guitarist, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist “sideman,” who was once a member of the Chicago blues scene of the 1970s and 80s playing alongside Lonnie Brooks and Little Mac Simmons, has made his solo debut. As for the result, “There Ain’t No Better Time” to listen to it!

Eight well-crafted original songs and two covers (“Get Ready” and “Tonight”) compose Zaklan’s fresh(man) offering, and Jon Norton of radio station WGLT in Normal, Illinois says, “...his warm and confident voice is a pleasant surprise.’s taken a long time” to get this CD into listeners’ hands. Nevertheless, blues fans everywhere will be glad it’s here, especially when they hit the jackpot with these three numbers:

Track 2: “Chicken Bone”--More aptly classified as jumping blues, this snappy ballad tells the tale of a harried employee who’s looking forward to “another kamikaze weekend”: “I drove all day and, man, you know I worked all night. The boss man told me, ‘Son, you ain’t done a damn thing right.’ I’ve got some money in my pocket and I’m on my way home--you know it’s on - like a chicken bone!” Some might find that turn of phrase strange, but not Jim Curless’ swinging sax working solos alternately with Zaklan’s smoking guitar! This song is the perfect antidote to a woeful work week, or even a cruel commute.

Track 3: “Ain’t No Better Time”—Those of histrionic vocals (and perhaps rappers in particular) could certainly take some pointers from Joe Zaklan if they want to initiate musical seduction. In this gentle masterpiece of slow blues, Joe sways his lover to “see things my way” without profanity, crudity, or misogyny. Joe simply points out, “There ain’t no better time than there is right now!” The title track of Zaklan’s CD represents a refreshing accomplishment in blues music, and this reviewer welcomes the change. Ed Pierce plays atmospheric second guitar on this romance-inducing enticement.

Track 6: “Quiet as Kept”--The title of this mid-tempo rhythm-and-blues serenade is a lyrical oddity, but rest assured that the song is a winner! Garard Montague guest stars on sultry saxophone as Joe vividly describes his lady’s love: “Just like an old leather jacket--you know, the kind that’s really broken in--it’s just like snuggling in my baby’s arms, when outside I hear the howling wind…” The imagery is cozy, and “Quiet as Kept” will wrap listeners’ ears in its warm and positive embrace! They’ll wrap their arms around their partners on the dance floor, too.

Joe Zaklan, according to Jon Norton’s liner notes, was “smack dab in the middle of the Chicago blues scene of the 1970’s. He was in the house band at the venerable Pepper’s Lounge...” making his blues pedigree notable. The “talented sideman” has now become the “Front Man” singing and playing wonderfully tasty guitar that never goes over the top. And, really, “There [just] Ain’t No Better Time” for it to happen!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 32 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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