Jon Spear Band
B-Side Of My Life
Publicity: Blind Raccoon
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © November 2021
As they get ready to celebrate their tenth anniversary at the turn of the new year, my partner Mary and I would like to be some of the first to say “Happy Anniversary” to the Jon Spear Band. Additionally, with the band’s fourth release – “B-Side Of My Life” – being the third consecutive release of theirs that we’ve had the pleasure to work with, we’d also like to say “Thanks for all the good music”.
Along with longevity, the Jon Spear Band has had success with stability, as well. Going back to 2015, when I first reviewed “Old Soul”, the band has – and still consists of: Jon Spear on lead vocals and rhythm, acoustic, baritone and lead guitars, Dara James on lead vocals, rhythm and lead guitar, and harmonica; Andy Burdetsky on lead vocals and bass; John Stubblefield on drums and backing vocals. Their latest project also includes guest Skip Haga on keyboards. “B-Side Of My Life”, which pays homage to the flip side – or as Jon calls it, the “underdog” side – of the old 45 RPM records, consist of eleven new originals and two covers.
On the title track – “B-Side Of My Life” – referencing “Rock Around The Clock”; “Green Onions”; “Tequila”; “Be-Bop-a-Lula”; and “Unchained Melody”; all top ten hits that were released as the B side of a 45, believin’ he’ll start winnin’ when his life starts spinnin’ on the B side – Jon’s wishing he could put his life on a record and flip it over. Be careful what you wish for Jon, as the saying goes – “the grass isn’t always greener on the B side.” One thing for sure is that since this is an album and not a 45, with Andy & John’s rockin’ rhythm; Skip’s frolicking piano leads; Dara’s smokin’ harp blowing; Jon’s wailing Johnny Be Goode type guitar licks and vibrant vocals; track #4 is a smoker for sure.
With a frightening title like “Snakes and Spiders”, the opening strumming of Jon’s relaxing acoustic guitar work seems to temporarily take away some of that edge created by the title. That is until Dara jumps in with jarring vocals and jolting guitar as he descriptively belts out the song’s lyrics, which actually require some reading between the lines.
One of the most fun and very relatable (in many ways) songs is “My Old T-Shirts”. Having reached the stage of his life where most of his clothes are out of style and undersized, Jon’s about to give most of the stuff that he doesn’t wear enough to his local Good Will store. On the other hand, there’s a stack in the back of his closet he’s gonna keep till it hurts, and those of course, are his old T-Shirts. The ones from: the shows he’s seen; the places he’s been; the festivals and saloons; Beale Street, Bourbon Street and everywhere he’s put his feet; and even the one from his football team that hasn’t won a big game since 1992. These, and many more, are pages in his book of memories that will never be forgotten, ’cause they’re printed on cotton on the T-Shirts in his room. Musically, the tandem guitars – this time with Dara on lead and Jon on rhythm – are fabulous, as usual; and along with Skip’s lively piano leads, the Rhumba style rhythm Andy is laying down on the bass and drums, this one’s a sure dance floor filler.
Being one who not only enjoys sharing the guitar work, as we’ve seen by having three different vocalists take the lead on many of these songs, Jon Spear enjoys sharing that duty, as well. Having said that, on his rendition of Bruce McCabe’s “Darker Side” – a song that Johnny Lang introduced us to on his first release – Dara James just outright nails it. With his powerful and emotional vocal presentation and his stunning and masterful guitar leads, this one’s all him.
Oddly enough – for me anyway – “The Muskie Grind” is a song about a fish and the trials, tribulations and addictions of those trying to catch them. Should you happen be one of those who does go after the ferocious Muskellunge, with the advice and equipment instructions Andy’s giving, this one might be considered mandatory listening. As Rick Bowen so playfully said on the one sheet, “The Muskie Grind” could very well be the anthem for the Fishing Channel.
The disc closes with a song about everyone’s favorite time – “Time For The Blues”. It’s a swinger about a little juke joint on the edge of town where people go when they’re feelin’ down. That said, before they go, they make sure they’ve put on their dancin’ shoes. The jumpin’ vibe the band’s got goin’ on, along with the names all the vocalists are dropping, give the song an old school feel; and while you’re shaking along to it, the catchy chorus line will have you singing along, as well. Another real fun song.
Other songs on yet another outstanding release by the Jon Spear Band include: “Big Talk”; “Heartbeat Like A Samba”; “The Shaman”; “Yellow Moon” (A. & J. Neville); “Follow The Light”; “Kick In The Head”; and “Can’t Have Nothing”.
Having already garnered a Blues Blast Award Nomination back in 2016, I’m thinking “B-Side Of My Life” is not only worthy of repeating that, but opening some eyes of the Blues Music Award nominators, as well. Best of luck, Jon.
To find out more about the Jon Spear Band, just go to – www.jonspearband.com. Remember, wherever you go and whoever you contact, please let them know The Blewzzman sent you.
“The Blues Is My Passion And Therapy”
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 “Keeping The Blues Alive” Award Recipient