By Bobby Shiflett
I went to see the Jamie McLean Band play with the Matt Schofield Trio on April 21st, and was not disappointed. Indeed, it was a treat to watch these promising blues artists go through their paces. Both bands were tight and in the groove, and it was an excellent match-up. Workplay is an excellent venue for this type of show, with a friendly staff, and the sound was first rate.
The Jamie McClean wowed the small but engaged crowd with a variety of blues styles that moved from simmering to smoky to funky with equal ease. Jamie McClean proved himself to be a seasoned journeyman that can hold his own on any sized stage.
The Matt Schofield Trio followed suit. They quickly built up steam, and by the third song the band seemed to be in a comfortable groove. Though Matt Schofield is a soft-spoken Englishman, his style of playing is American influenced; borrowing a little of this and that from the likes of Freddie King and Stevie Ray Vaughn. He also threw in some New Orleans, funky, first line, spice for good measure.
Neither band broke any new ground, but that wasnt to be expected. Both are adept at taking a variety of traditional phrasings, and serving them to an audience who expects straight ahead, no holds barred blues. Both bands delivered as expected.
What if you had gotten the opportunity to see Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble when they were first catching fire and before they were too well known? Though we won’t have THAT particular opportunity ever again, we will have the opportunity to catch an exciting new fire-brand blues trio on their way up. On Saturday, April 21st, 2012, patrons of Birmingham’s Workplay Theater will have the opportunity to find out what festival goers already know: The Jamie McLean Band is a force to be reckoned with. They get their groove on by mixing swampy blues, funk and soul with road-worn, tried and true southern rock.
Slightly resembling Eric Clapton in appearance, Jamie also brings a journeyman’s skill to his guitar playing. He has cultivated an emotionally expressive style that is often reminiscent of Robin Trower. Jamie began his musical journey in early 2001 when he was taken into the Dirty Dozen Brass Band as their guitarist. Pretty soon he found himself touring the world, sharing dates with the likes of Widespread Panic, Nora Jones and Elvis Costello.
In an interview given to Rock Music Star, in March of 2011, Jamie talked about how his time with DDBB affected his guitar playing: “Prior to joining that band, I was a much flashier player. I was playing more notes, with more technique. …I quickly learned, that one note played, with all of your heart, can trump a thousand notes.”
In 2006, Jamie teamed up with Brian Griffin (drums) and Ben Mars (bass) to form the Jamie McLean Band. Ever since, they have been relentlessly recording and touring; playing dates at Mountain Jam, Gathering of the Vibes, and the Sweetwater Festival; as well as performing on the bill with Greg Allman, Drive By Truckers, Gov’t Mule, and Blues Traveler.
With five previous albums, all available on their website: , the Jamie McLean Band is set to release their latest, Live at Gibson, on May 8th. This first live release of the band features Jason Crosby (Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Santana, Dave Matthews) as well as American Idol winner and Birmingham native, Taylor Hicks.
I had the pleasure of previewing the 13 songs on the new release and was, overall, quite taken with what I heard. The southern-friend, “Country Living” kicks things off. It is an engaging up-tempo toe-tapper with a gritty flavor sure to appeal to fans of the Black Crowes or Mother’s Finest. Taylor Hicks helps out with the vocals and some harmonica. Without pausing to take a breath, the band goes into “I Been Low,” which is my favorite studio recording of theirs. Jamie lays down some ferocious slide-work on this pounding, barn burner as if setting out to summon the spirit of Dwayne Allman. After this, the JMB changes gears and plays a straight-forward and righteous blues tune called, “Crazy About You.” The guitar work on this is first rate and there is something haunting about it that conjures images of “The Sky is Crying.” However my personal favorite on “Live At Gibson” is JMB’s rendition of the Allman Brothers’ classic, “Midnight Rider,” which, once again, brings Taylor Hicks in to share the spotlight. A song of this caliber brings with it certain expectations, and, on this occasion, the band does not disappoint. This is a recording that they can proud of, and one day you’ll be proud that you got to see them …so make sure that you do.