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Jerome Washington Express
Live – San Luis Obispo Blues Society Show

By Rob Paullin

A guitar, a bass—just ten strings—some drums and one voice singing into one microphone.  It may not sound like much, you would think, but when you listen to Live at LSO by the Jerome Washington Express, you’ll be amazed at what you hear.

The band, a central California coast mainstay for over a decade, consists of guitarist-singer-songwriter Drew Arnold, bassist Tyler Mitchell and drummer Jim Stromberg.  As good as Arnold is as a guitarist and singer, perhaps he is strongest as a songwriter.

The Express started their careers together in 1994 playing classic rock and blues in the San Diego area, and have since moved northward geographically and onward musically.  In the evolutional process, the have expanded their range of blues from Texas and Chicago sounds to the west coast, with some nice individual twists.

All but one song on this live CD were penned by leader Drew Arnold.   Here’s what we found:

The disk kicks off after a live introduction with “Baby Left This Morning,” the only non-original.  Arnold’s cryin’ guitar sets up this traditional-sounding blues tear-jerker.  Next on “Long, Tall and Fine, the slide guitar establishes the pattern for some Louisiana swamp boogie.  “Black Man’s Shoes” is another boogie blaster, this one about learning from the success—and failures—of others. 

If you like Hendrix, you’ll definitely enjoy listening to “River Song.”  The guitar work is definitely Jimi-style, and the vocal is not far behind.  “Traveler’s Song” also has a distinct Hendrix flavor to it.  It painfully describes how the livin’ is not so easy when a summertime breeze blows your baby away from you.

“Lady Chiva” is lyrically simplistic but is saved by some snappy guitar work and a nifty bass solo by Tyler Mitchell.

The tempo changes for “That’s Why I Love Her” and “Take My Blues Away,” two upbeat songs about the value and triumph of love, sometimes in trying times.

The Jerome  Washington Express kicks it back into high gear with “All I Need,” a song that describes how one can become a slave to the power—both spiritual and physical—of love.

The disk wraps up with “Layin’ on the Sidewalk,” a song that makes being down and out almost seem like fun, with guitar, bass and drum solos all expertly featured.

It’s obvious the Jerome Washington Express has been together for awhile, based on a tight blend that turns three instruments and one voice into an amazingly full sound.

Now, perhaps you are wondering who is Jerome Washington, since nobody in the band is named, Jerome Washington.  Leader Drew Arnold describes Washington as the main musical influence in his life, a man who befriended him and taught him guitar at age 11, when Arnold and his broken family moved into a new neighborhood in southern California.  Perhaps Jerome Washington is the subject of cut four, “Black Man’s Shoes”????

Native Illinoisan Rob Paullin has also lived in Memphis, Oklahoma City, Roswell, plus China and  Ukraine, but had never heard of San Luis Obispo.  It’s a town of about 40,000 people midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco and just in from the Pacific coast.  Thought you’d wanna know….!

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