Jerry Joseph is an old-school rock iconoclast, the type for whom opinionated is a politely remote descriptor, but then fades away into a hail of guitar and the spiked delivery of a particularly on-point lyric. And when he’s on—and with his trio, the Jackmormons, there’s no fear of off—he’s a ferocious live show, like Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty fronting Crazy Horse, and with a world-weary purview that’s emotional, heavy and leaves just enough room for slivers of optimism. Joseph is above all prolific. He has more than 30 albums to his name and some 250 potent original songs, which will form the bulk of what’s sure to be a barn burner of a set at Rough Trade NYC tomorrow night. This time around, he and his Jackmormons (above, performing “Savage Garden”)—Steven James Wright on bass and Steve Drizos on drums—come slinging Weird Blood (stream it below), Joseph’s third album in as many years with Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools as a shrewd producer. Joseph is the first to admit the Weird Blood songs evoke a time of year and a state of mind. “I rented a tiny house about a mile from my home so I could write but be home for dinner and kid bedtime,” he writes in the album’s accompanying notes. “I ended up writing a fistful of songs. It was cold early January but a perfect place to write. Weird stuff was happening in general, one of those weeks where I had my copy of Black Star and David Bowie died. I tend to do the mad scribble thing when I write.” Indeed, Weird Blood runs the Josephian gamut: “Sweet Baba Jay” and its spooked folk rock, “3-7-77,” which feels like it’s trying to escape from its own untidy blues-rock framework, “Wild Wild West,” a tune of his that’s been around for more than two decades and really unfolds live, and “Think On These Things,” a common Joseph show opener but tender enough an anthemic rock song that it’s willing to let in just enough light to be called uplifting. You’ll get a range of styles, plus snatches of songs from one or more of Joseph’s constellation of influences, from Leonard Cohen to Bob Marley. But most of all you’ll get Joseph, who’s earned the right to be called an original, and if you’re in the right frame of mind, could front the best band in the world on any given night. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson
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Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons – Mercury Lounge – April 30, 2017
Jerry Joseph isn’t one to sugarcoat: As longtime friend Widespread Panic bassist (and sometime bandmate) Dave Schools has put it, his music can be “an absolute emotional slaughterhouse.” Which is not to call it dour—a Jerry Joseph show is a master class in old school, highly emotional rock and roll energy—just that when you experience it you’re often in for a scorched-earth kind of evening, no-holds-barred, no-punches-pulled, no-edges-filed-down, no phony sanctimony. He’s an iconoclast, for sure, and the less he seems to care about how some take to his abrasive sentiments, the more his music deepens and becomes more soulful. It can sound ferocious and cynical, tender and fragile, world-wise and world-weary. And he’s crazy prolific. Each time Joseph returns to New York City he’s got new songs that sound of a piece with everything he’s done over a 30-plus-year career—and yet don’t repeat himself.
One of Joseph’s masterstrokes was finding bandmates who could be an extension of this personality and translate it into feral rock—jammy and shape-shifting. The Jackmormons, now again a trio after a stretch as a quartet, returned to Mercury Lounge Sunday night for a rare local long-play, meaning it wasn’t over and done within a tight hour and had ample room to stretch out, welcome friends and do what they do best: rough-scuffed folk rock played at times with Crazy Horse–like abandon and paint-stripping guitar. Whether it was the anthemic, gospel-y “Think on These Things” to open or the roiling “Soda Man” or a long, gnarly jam out of Bob Marley’s “Positive Vibration” that burrowed its way into the metal-scraping “Brother Number One,” every tune took its time, unhurried, and yeah, with incendiary guitar solos, chunky bass and crashing drums but none of it out of place or feeling extra. A lot of bands jam because they want to expand a song with improvisational solos or groupthink, but Jackmormons jams seem to go long because the emotional weight of a lot of this material commands a full workout. As an audience member, you’d rather be drained instead of left too heavy.
This show was a benefit for Joseph’s forthcoming trip to Iraq to work with refugee, cultural and educational organizations—a very Jerry Joseph think to do—and summoned some extra friends to accompany Joseph, bassist Steven James Wright and drummer Steve Drizos. Among them were the sage Mookie Siegel, dappling the music with heavenly organ and piano, and the ace Jamie McLean, bringing a red-meat blues-rock sensibility as a foil for Joseph’s own teeth-bared guitar playing. Especially remarkable was how well both of them became an extension of the Jackmormons, a trio that at times couldn’t seem to possibly hold more personality, and yet, there they were as part of the band, deep in its thrall. Potent stuff, you’d say with a chuckle, like calling an erupting volcano “potent stuff.” —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson
Tags: Bob Marley, Chad Berndtson, Crazy Horse, Dave Schools, Jamie McLean, Jeff Crosby, Jerry Joseph, Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons, Live Music, Lower East Side, Mercury Lounge, Mookie Siegel, Music, New York City, Steve Drizos, Steve James Wright, Widespread Panic
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Prolific singer-songwriter Jerry Joseph, a musician’s musician, began his music career more than three decades ago when he formed the reggae-tinged rock band Little Women in 1982. Since then, he’s done plenty of solo work and he’s been involved with and associated with a variety of bands, including Stockholm Syndrome and Widespread Panic (and even Woody Harrelson). But he’s most well known for fronting Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons (above, doing “Amazing Grace”). Their most recent album—actually a double album—Happy Book (stream it below), came out in 2012, and Relix called it “one of Joseph’s finest efforts to date.” But a new LP, Singing in the Rain, is due out next month. And backed by guitarist Jeff Crosby, drummer Steve Drizos and bassist Stevie James Wright, Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons play the early show tonight at Mercury Lounge.
Tags: Happy Book, Jeff Crosby, Jerry Joseph, Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons, Mercury Lounge, Preview, Singing in the Rain, Steve Drizos, Stevie James Wright, Stockholm Syndrome, Video, Widespread Panic
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