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