Seattle to Greaseland
Blue Heart Records
Publicity: Blind Raccoon
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © August 2023
As far as longevity goes, since it was less than ten years ago when Joel Astley formed his first band, calling him a ‘new kid on the block’ might not exactly be out of order. However, if I were to do so, I’d add an asterisk at the end of the term, with the follow up explanation clarifying he is a ‘new kid on the block with veteran credentials’. Reason being, in that short period of time, Joel has amassed eighteen “Best of the Blues” awards from his home state’s Washington Blues Society. Some of those include:Best Harmonica Player – five out of the last six years; Best Male Vocalist – three out of the last five years; Best Songwriter – three out of the last four years; and Best Performer – this year. Now, taking all that talent and teaming it up with the “Gurus of Greaseland”, it may not be too long before this new kid takes over the block.
On his all original, debut release titled Seattle To Greaseland, vocalist and harmonicist Joel Astley is joined by: Johnny Burgin on guitar; Kid Andersen – the disc’s technical maestro – on keys and electric guitar; June Core on drums; Randy Bermudes on bass; and Jill Dineen and Marina Crouse on backing vocals.
Some of the lyrics on “Karma Wheel” made me realize that Joel and I may just have more than blues in common. The song addresses patience, and how hard it is to sometimes have – especially when waiting for that damn slow karma wheel to roll around. As Joel tells it, “When somebody gets the best of me, the first thing I want to do is get ’em back. But every time, it gets me into more trouble than when I started. I found, it’s better to just sit back and let karma do the work. But I tell ya, it’s so hard to be patient.” Tell me about it! With two stunning solos, the first by Kid and the second by Johnny, this one is drenched with scorching blues guitar licks.
It’s one thing about having to wear hand-me-downs and play with toys that other older kids played with before you, but Joel’s clever take on everything he owns being owned before, takes being a “Secondhand Kid” to a whole other level. The song is loaded with humorous metaphors with my favorite being “I wrecked a car back when I was a kid, they thought I was gonna die and I almost did. But the doctors topped me off with some blood from a donor, seems even the blood in my veins has a previous owner“. Musically, the track features Kid (keys), June (drums) and Randy (bass) in a fiercely funky rhythm groove while Johnny and Joel lay down smoking blues leads on the guitar and harmonica, respectively.
“Takin’ It With Me” finds Joel in a state of denial. Since he believes that no one has factually been able to prove it, and “The only one’s who know for sure ain’t talkin’ about the road that lies ahead” he’s not buying into that you can’t take it with you thing. Being hellbent on taking it with him, “his last check’s gonna bounce, because he’s draining all his accounts; and his next of kin won’t have to fight over his will, because all he’s leaving is a funeral bill”. It goes without saying that the talented bunch behind him are nailing it musically, but with the smack he’s dishing out, and the swagger he’s using to do so, this one’s all about the fabulously delivered witty lyrics. One of several testimonials to his songwriting and vocalist awards.
Randy’s substantial bass lines lead this rhythm fueled, dance floor filler. On this smoker, Joel tells us about a woman whose ability to bring bath water to a boil just by getting in it, and to set off smoke alarms just by walking by. Those characteristics, and many more are why she’s “Hot As Hell”. Also hot as hell are the sizzling guitar runs by Johnny and the fiery chromatic harp lead from the boss himself.
As the title of this rocker might lead you to believe, this song is not about what road weary musicians, more often than not, do with their rides. When Johnny uses the term “Down To The Rims”, it’s not his vehicle he’s going tot ride to that point, it’s his lifestyle. Another well written, well sung track with a little extra lift from the ladies on harmonies.
Please, if you’re driving when this one comes on, it’s okay to shout out “HALLELUJAH!’, but do resist the desire to stand up and start clapping your hands when you do. Trust me, you’re gonna wanna – Joel, Jill and Marina are. It’s titled “No Brighter Gold” and I think I pretty much described it already.
Other tracks on Seattle To Greaseland – which should surely render some nominations at future awards ceremonies – include: “Born Cryin'”; “Candy Shop”; “Just Right”; “Work With What You Got”; and “Bobby’s Place”.
Should you like to find out more about Joel Astley, just go to – www.joelastley.com. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you speak with, please tell them their friend, 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