Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Jimmys Live From Transylvania at Sighisoara Blues Festival

I was intrigued when I saw the word “Transylvania” in the title of a blues album. See, in one of my other lives, I write about horror, specifically old school horror and I’ve been a source for a lot of vampire articles and documentaries. Transylvania is obviously one of those places that figures prominently in vampire lore, but I’ve never heard of it being associated with the blues before.
Well, apparently I’ve been missing something – mainly the Sighisoara Blues Festival that was held in beautiful Romania in 2015. And no, I am not being facetious, Romania is a beautiful country with a rich history in a variety of performing arts, as well as a dark side that is a perfect fit for the blues.
Enter The Jimmys, a hard working blue collar band from the wilds of Wisconsin and they perform an electrifying set of high energy horn fueled blues on this live CD. As old sound guys will tell you, recording live always presents issues, but they are very few on this album – the music is crisp and the vocals are strong and the two are well balanced with just enough crowd noise that you can feel the give and take between performers and audience.
The Jimmys consist of Jimmy Voegeli on piano, Hammond, and vocals; Perry Weber on guitar and vocals; Mauro Magellan on drums; John Wartenweiler on bass; Darren Sterud on trombone and vocals; Charley Wagner on trumpet; and Pete Ross on Saxophone.  The band also writes much of its own material with Voegeli penning or co-writing five of the ten songs and Weber writing one, and Magellan co-writing one as well.
The album starts off with a jazzy swing tune, Jacqui Juice, that gives Voegeli’s Hammond a chance to set the tone before Weber’s guitar takes over. This instrumental clocks in at just a shade over seven minutes and the jam allows the different members of the bands introduce themselves through their various solos. Nice tune, and the crowd seems to enjoy it as well.
The band follows up with another up-tempo song, I Wonder, and keeps the swing going. Voegeli’s boogie style piano works well with the horn section to give the music a deep rich feel. Sterud’s trombone lead is a standout.
Without even pausing, the band then moves into the honkytonk feeling You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore. It’s a tightly controlled song and obviously a hit when performed live. Three songs in and The Jimmys show a great deal of versatility and mix their brand of blues with jazz and rock to create a unique sound.
Things slow down just a little on Hell Or Heaven, and the result is strong. There is still plenty of control and the horn section gives the lyrics a lighter feel. Weber has a nice break and Magellan’s drums get a little more spotlight.
The Jimmys crank up the boogie with the next song, Love Will Find A Way. This one has a real rocking feel, and is a solid crowd pleaser. It was announced as having been on a previous album (remember, this one is live, so anything goes), and I am intrigued and will go look for it. I like their live sound, now I’m curious to hear how they handle a studio setting.
Mack Rice’s Cold Women undergoes The Jimmys treatment and sounds great for it. The band obviously knows how to work an audience. I’m a sucker for a strong horn section and when it is expertly mixed in with the traditional guitar/bass/piano/drum set up, I’m quickly invested in the sound.
Now the band finally brings it down low with Lonesome Whistle Blues. I’ve been wondering if they were going to do a slower tempo song to give the audience something a little different. This one is definitely old school and the vocals are a very nice shout. Voegeli’s Hammond blends with Weber’s guitar and the horns add a wonderful melancholy to the song. Outstanding.
Still sounding old school, You Say You Will, has a swinging Chicago sound. This one was written by Weber and I’m assuming he takes the vocal lead as well. The whole band is in a rocking mood and the shout out to Hubert Sumlin before the break is a nice touch. Another good song.
Then the band launches into Lose That Woman, a Voegeli original with all the abandon and intensity of a punk rock anthem. It’s quick, concise, and a hard-rocking number. This is one that should garner a lot of airplay.
The album concludes with Ophelia, a rollicking number that plays to the band’s strength. A party song with strong vocals and even stronger musicianship. It’s a good closer to a fast and fun set.
Admittedly, I was not in the know about the band prior to listening to this CD, but after listening to it a couple of times, I went to their website and discovered that they have several previous albums available. As soon as I can get an advance on my allowance (yes, I turn my paycheck over to Mrs. Professor, otherwise our house would be buried in CDs), I plan on adding them all to my collection.
I’ll let you know how that goes. In the meantime, check this one out and you don’t even have to go to Transylvania in order to hear it. You might even catch them live in the states, and if you do, tell ‘em The Professor sent you!

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