The Jelly Roll Kings are a trio of state-of-the-art Mississippi Delta bluesmen who play their music raw and unvarnished, complete with lilting rhythms, dreamily atmospheric keyboards, dance-shuffle drums, and soul-drenched vocals. Led by guitarist Big Jack Johnson, the band includes two veterans of the Delta juke joint scene -- Frank Frost on keyboards and harmonica, and Sam Carr, the son of legendary blues musician Robert Nighthawk, on drums. Johnson, the group's guitarist, chief songwriter and lead vocalist, is the youngest of the three.
Carr began dancing at his father's gigs when he was eight and later took up drums. Harmonica player and keyboardist Frank Frost's background includes playing guitar for Sonny Boy Williamson II, recording in Nashville with Elvis Presley guitarist Scotty Moore, and releasing his own album on the Appaloosa label, Frank Frost with Freddie and the Screamers, in 1992. Frost also recorded an album for the British Charly label, Frank Frost, Jelly Roll King: Charly Blues Masterworks Vol. 36.
The Jelly Roll Kings have recorded one album for the Fat Possum/Capricorn label, 1997's Off Yonder Wall. Produced by author/impresario Robert Palmer, the album does a superb job of capturing the complex interplay between Johnson, Carr and Frost. The recording is suitably raw and stripped down, with a remarkable live club sound to it. The trio puts a fresh spin on old familiar blues standards like "That's Alright Mama" and "Baby Please Don't Go," while their originals remain true to the spirit of 1990s-era Delta juke joint blues. The result is one of the most unique-sounding albums of the year. ~ Richard Skelly