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Messin' With the Blues

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Album Review

Southside Johnny Lyon's first studio release in nearly a decade is a roaring return to form, as well as one of the bluesiest albums in his catalog. Produced by E Street Band bassist and Lyon's friend Garry Tallent (the two share a record collection as well as New Jersey roots), the disc boasts a professional but far-from-slick sound that perfectly captures this rollicking, bar band, horn-driven music. Lyon's voice has toughened over the years, which infuses it with a more ragged tone, adding to the overall sturdiness of the disc's sound. Lyon's terrific harp playing, which has frustratingly stayed on the back burner in the past, bursts out here with authority and conviction. His lip-shredding harmonica on "Sinful" won't put him in a league with Little Walter, but he's sure in the same ballpark. Although about half of the tracks are covers (from Tom Waits, Memphis Slim, and Percy Mayfield, among others), Lyon's co-written originals are some of his best and certainly most bluesy. There's still a taste of the raucous "Havin' a Party" style he's best known for in "Tell 'Em I'm Broke," but the Jukes — both old and new members contribute — effectively shift gears into John Lee Hooker-styled boogie ("Kill My Love") and earthy zydeco (Eddie Shuler's "Come Home Little Girl" and the accordion-driven, locomotive tempo of "Looks Like Rain"), as well as creeping, Dr. John-influenced swamp rock gris-gris ("Satan's Shoes"). A phenomenal comeback, and far better than his directionless (and out-of-print) mid-'80s records, Messin' With the Blues fulfills the promise of the Jukes' early recordings and establishes Southside Johnny as a creative and gifted bluesman whose party-animal days are behind him. Hopefully listeners won't have to wait another nine years for the next chapter in the Jukes' story.


Born: 04 December 1948 in Neptune, NJ

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes were the second band after Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band to emerge from the New Jersey shore scene, and though they carried over a significant influence (and some key personnel) from their predecessors, they were a more generic white R&B horn band in the Memphis Stax Records tradition. The group was organized in 1974 by singer John Lyon (b. December 4, 1948, Neptune, NJ) and guitarist/songwriter "Miami" Steve Van Zandt (b. November 22, 1950, Boston)....
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Messin' With the Blues, Southside Johnny
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