Neon Grub Jeer Music
By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © April 2021
“Common Cents” is the fourth release for Milwaukee based Jonny T-Bird and the MPs. If like me, you are unfamiliar with the band, I’d be willing to bet you’d never guess what the MPs stands for, so let me spare you the effort. As the story goes, with several members of the current ensemble having been band mates in a group called the Marinated Puppets (see, you’d have never got that), they decided to just call the offspring the MPs. If you ask me, that’s a lot more logical than Marinated Puppets, Jr.
The nucleus of the band are: Jon “T-Bird” Neuberger on guitar, harmonica and vocals; “Cadillac” Craig Carter on bass and vocals; and Marcus “MG” Gibbons on drums and percussion. Several guest MPs include: Nikki Beckman on drums; Conway Powell on bass; Pierre Lee and Jane Barry Fraundorf on keyboards; Aaron Gardner on horn arrangements and saxophone; and Eric Jacobson on trumpet.
Of the thirteen tracks on “Common Cents”, ten are penned by Jonny, one is a collaboration between him and Nikki, and two are covers. Along with Jonny’s Uncle Mark Neuberger, the album is dedicated to the band’s late drummer, Marcus “MG” Gibbons.
On the opening track, as Jonny says “I Can’t Pick It Up”, then uses “I’m not as strong as I used to be” as an excuse, because I was able to relate, many things that I can no longer pick up came to mind. That said, it turned out that Jonny and I were not on the same page. You see, because of being; mistreated; lied to; abused; misused; pushed and shoved so many times, Jonny’s use of the word strong was a reference to his mental – not his physical state – and and the thing he can no longer pick up is love. With it’s melancholic lyrics, this could have been a slow bluesy ballad but instead – with a relentless rhythm being pounded out by “Cadillac” and “MG”, ferocious organ leads by Pierre, and scalding lead guitar licks by Jonny – he and the MPs totally rocked it out.
The title track is Jonny’s take on the financial disparity that exists in the world and has worsened since the arrival of the pandemic. As he says – and in spite of it being a play on words, I know he’s being truthful, not cute – ‘What the world needs now is “Common Cents'” (Neuberger/Beckman). Right about here a John Lennon song just came to mind… Imagine! Musically, the completely different rhythm section of Nikki on drums, Conway on bass, and Jane on keyboards give the track a slightly funky and very danceable vibe.
Although their names are almost identical, this track is not about the child of King James V of Scotland, who was six days old when her father died and she acceded to the throne. This song is about a different Mary – “Mary, Queen Of Scotch” – a lush who’s only claim to fame is how much Johnny Walker she can put into her mouth. With “Cadillac” and Nikki in a cool rhythm groove behind him, Jonny shines on the vocals, harmonica, and guitar on this one.
Because it’s gut wrenching, down and dirty, slow blues, “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven” (D. Nix) is one of my favorite tracks of the bunch. Being the kind of stuff I can listen to all day long, I treated myself by using several replays to turn this four-and-a-half minute long song into twenty plus minutes of pure blues pleasure. With the rhythm section smack dab in the slow blues pocket, Jonny T-Bird and “Cadillac” Craig Carter are all over this one. Jonny’s sounding at disc’s best with some killer slow blues guitar licks and “Cadillac” – belting the hell out of the blues vocally – is sounding like a real deal bluesman. Wow!
As the title will indeed imply, “The T-Bird Gets T-Boned”, this one’s a hot shuffle. It’s a toe tappin’, finger snappin’ instrumental that features deep bass lines and dramatic rhythm from the hands of “Cadillac” and “MG”, lively horns with hot trumpet and saxophone standouts by Aaron and Eric, and dynamite rhythm and lead guitar work by Jonny. Real good stuff.
This one’s about Jonny’s dog – a dog who won’t fetch sticks and he’s tired of chasing chicks; a dog who is so lazy he never wants to roam and wherever he lays, a flea will find its home; a dog who used to be so happy now he wears a frown; a dog who’s his time is almost up but Jonny refuses to put him down. Sadly, Johnny’s dog is an “Old Dog”. Musically, if you can imagine an couple of rhythm guys sittin’ around on a porch with Jonny blowin’ a harp as his old dog lays besides him, you’ll have an idea about this track’s laid back vibe.
“Hey Renee!” is an uptempo instrumental with “T-Bird”, “Cadillac” and “MG” pretty much putting on a workshop on how a harmonica, guitar, bass and drums should be played. “T-Bird” has both the harmonica and guitar notes hopping, “Cadillac” – who has been killer throughout – is nailing a walking bass line, and “MG” – who has been all over every track he’s been on – has a most amazing tone coming from his obviously very well tuned kit. Although the tracks title must have some meaning to Jonny, if I were asked to name it, I’d go with “Maestros At Work”.
Other tracks on this dynamite disc include: “Birthday Blues”, “I Need Water”, “Chickens Don’t Like Me”, “Natural Dream”, “Mr. Pitiful” (Redding/Cropper), and “No Ship”.
To get your hands on a copy of “Common Cents” for airplay and to find out more about Jonny T-Bird and the MPS, just go to the band’s website – www.jonnytbird.com. When you do, please tell Jonny that the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping the Blues Alive Recipient