The second album for the team of Jim Gustin and Truth Jones, Memphis is a strong album that not only uses strong blues, but also mixes in a little soul, a smidgen of gospel, and even an adult contemporary number. Their first album, Can’t Shed A Tear, was released in 2013 and received a lot of air play and wound up on a number of charts.
Gustin has been working the West Coast Blues scene for better than 30 years and you can tell it in every lick of his guitar and every note of his gravel voiced vocals. On top of all that, he’s a damn good songwriter, penning six of the album's ten songs by himself and co-writing the remainder with Jeri Goldenhar, aka Truth Jones.
Let me mention Jones’ voice. Oh, my God, what a tremendous voice. She can do just about anything with it – she handles edginess as well as softer tones that invite you into her world. It’s no secret that I am a big fan of the female voice, but I’m often very demanding about what I listen to, and Jones is the real deal. I could listen to her all night and into the next morning.
Gustin and Jones are joined by some very good musicians: Steve Alterman on piano, organ, and keyboards; Terry Wilson on bass, guitar, percussion, and backing vocals; and Herman Matthews on drums and percussion. Teresa James added backing vocals.
A note about Teresa James. Aside from recording a great album herself recently, Bonafide, she’s provided backing vocals on Coco Montoya’s latest album, Hard Truth. She even did the vocal arranging for this album. James is a force to watch.
Some nice shuffle rhythms kick off the album on Half Past Ten. Gustin has one of those great growling voices and the song has some very clever lyrics. It’s some cool blue collar blues and Alterman’s piano carries a lot of the song. Great way to start the album.
The first of four songwriting collaborations between Goldenhar and Gustin is next. Live With Yourself starts off with a good dose of funk and some very cool guitar. Jones’ vocals are as sweet as sunshine on this number. She’s got more than a little country in that voice – and I mean the good kind of country that comes from the heart and soul. Love this one, and I love her voice!
The title track, Memphis, follows with some gospel thrown in to set the mood. Gustin’s voice is perfect for the blues, it has a great deal of character and sounds like it has been through hell and somehow made it back. He also picks a pretty mean guitar.
The second Goldenhar-Gustin collaboration, You Know Me Too Well, is a slow powerful tune. Jones’ voice sways and lures you in with the wiles of a siren. This is blues noir, dark music that has thinly veiled danger lurking behind the notes. I really like this song a lot. I think most men listening to this song would fall under her spell quickly. I know I did…
Matthews’ drums open up I Love What I Got, and along with Alterman’s keyboards, provide the backing for Gustin’s vocals. This one has a lot of soul and it has a slightly different flavor than most of the songs on the album. It’s still got those growls and some killer guitar feels, but the percussion really sets it apart.
Jones lets loose on the personal anthem, Big Hearted Woman. She’s got a sharp edge to her voice for this song and it turns the lyrics into a warning. If I were you, I would pay attention, take notes, and refer to them often. This is a woman who is not feeling like having someone take advantage of her big heart. You have been warned…
They follow up the Big Hearted Woman with a Crazy Little Woman. Two sides of the same coin? Nah, this one is a fun number with a guy who loves his crazy little woman – after all crazy can take on a few different meanings. It’s a good musical double feature.
The third Goldenhar-Gustin collaboration, I Ain’t Playing, follows and this is a fun number. It’s straight forward, a real workingman’s honkytonk blues. I think this one would be a big hit when done live, there’s plenty of room for extended keyboards and guitars. And hell, I would listen to Jones sing just about anything!
Slipping Away starts off with a different sound. It’s more California Rock, a softer song than any of the ones Gustin has sung previously. While his vocals still growl, he somehow comes across more vulnerable than before. I like to hear artists explore different sounds, and this is a good song for that.
One last Goldenhar-Gustin collaboration ends the album. Right Time For Good-Bye has some gospel feel to the keys and guitar and Jones’ voice is angelic in her approach. The song has so much sadness in it, it’s beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.
As this is an independent release, you might not have as much luck finding it at your local record store (still my preferred way of finding CDs when I’m not fortunate enough to have them sent to me), but you can find it at all the usual places. I think it’s a great album that will almost certainly end up on my Best Of list at the end of the year.
You’ll be hearing selections from it on some upcoming shows and once I get my hands of the first CD, you’ll hear several from that one as well. In the meantime, I couldn’t find a dedicated website for Gustin and Jones, but there are plenty of links that should be able to get you any of the information that you might need.
As I get more info, I’ll be sure to pass it along.
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