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J.P. Soars - Back of My Mind

Soars High Productions

12 tracks/50:26

Backed by his band, the Red Hots, J.P. Soars made quite an impression at this year’s International Blues Challenge, the annual event staged by the Blues Foundation. Representing the South Florida Blues Society, Soars won the top award for Best Band as well as the Albert King award, given to the best guitar player in the competition. He started out as a heavy metal guitarist but eventually Soars discovered jazz and blues, which a ultimately led him to switch his allegiance to blues music.

This independent release provides plenty of proof that the judges at the Blues Challenge made the right decision. Take a listen to Muddy Water‘s “Gypsy Woman” and revel in Soars ability to steadily build the tension in this slow blues masterpiece. Supported by Terry Hanck on tenor sax, Soars sings with an aged-in-whiskey voice that perfectly fits this tale of despair. His guitar solo is full of biting phrases and emotional wallop. “Born in California, Raised in Arkansas” is a Soars original and a jump-blues burner that clearly demonstrates that Soars has assimilated the best elements of the T-Bone Walker style into his own playing. Soars pays further tribute on a high-speed romp through Walker‘s “Low Dirty Deal”.

Switching gears, Soars delivers a stellar performance on another original, “Baby, I Used to Love You”. The Red Hots, Gary Rimmington on bass and Gary Peet on drums, lay down a swinging beat and Soars displays a light touch on the acoustic guitar. The band tears into Johnny Watson’s “Gangster of Love”, giving listeners a good idea of what this classic would have sounded like if someone like Muddy Waters had covered it. Billy Burns contributes some fine Chicago-style harmonica. Soars hoarse singing voice captures the swagger in the lyrics and his brief guitar solo is another example of his skill and tasty playing. Soars burns through another slow blues , J.B. Lenoir’s “Been Down So Long”, with help from Chris Kingsolver on piano. He turns in a brilliant solo that starts out soft and slow before building to an eruption of emotionally-charged playing. The disc ends with the instrumental, “Blue Drag” giving Soars the opportunity to pay homage to his gypsy jazz influences.

Whether it’s a soulful original like “Will I Ever” or a cover Rev. Gay Davis’ “Cocaine”, Soars & the Red Hots never fail to deliver the goods on this very impressive release. Soars eschews the “faster and louder is better” school of guitar playing., preferring to make taste and feeling the hallmarks of his style. This disc makes it apparent that he is brimming with talent and already has developed a deep affinity for the various forms of blues music. This recording is highly recommended - give it a listen and help spread the word about the award-winning J.P. Soars !!!!

Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL

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