If you’ve actually gone out and bought an album sometime in the last fifteen years or so, congratulations, you most likely own one where John Ginty played keyboards. The man is one of the most prolific, in-demand studio musicians around, who just so happens to have been a founding member of Robert Randolph’s Family Band, and has played alongside the likes of The Allman Brothers, Santana, Govt. Mule, Bob Weir and Ratdog, and Widespread Panic.
Along the way, he also played and toured with Jewel and The Dixie Chicks and in 2013 he recorded his first solo album, Bad News Travels, which features special guests Warren Haynes, Martie Maguire, Neal Casal, Alecia Chakour, Albert Castiglia, Todd Wolfe, and Cris Jacobs.
Even if his name is not familiar to you, I can say with little fear of contradiction that you have heard his work somewhere along the line. And if you somehow missed him, well, here’s your chance to get his latest CD on American Showplace Music, Rockers, that he recorded with vocalist Aster Pheonyx.
Ginty plays just about every keyboard in existence on the album and Pheonyx supplies lead vocals and acoustic guitar. They are joined by Justine Gardner on bass guitar; Mike Buckman and Jimmy Bennett on guitars; Maurice “mOe” Watson on drums and backing vocals; and Josh Gannet on guitar, percussion, and backwoods. Paul Kuzik played bass on one song and Paul Gerdts added backing vocal. Reggie Noble (aka Redman) wrote and performed a comedic skit as DJ Funky GitWork.
A funky instrumental, The Shark, gets the album rolling. Ginty’s nimble organ work is on display almost immediately. It seems evident that he wants to establish that he’s in control of the album and demonstrate his superior work.
The follow up song, Lucky 13, opens with some strong drums and then they unleash their secret weapon, Aster Pheonyx. Let me tell you something, this lady can sing! She’s got an edge to her voice that would put a straight razor to shame. The song is gritty and has enough attitude for three punk records. I can’t wait to hear what else this group is cooking up.
Next up is Believe In Smoke, and the attitude is still there but the intensity of the music is turned down slightly. There’s plenty of blues in these songs, but it’s not necessarily a well-known sound, like Chicago or West Coast, it’s a modern blues that incorporates other genres into the mix. It’s a raw and exciting sound that might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but then, what is? I like it so far.
Ginty uses an electric piano and organ to introduce Target On The Ground. It’s a cool throwback sound and when Pheonyx steps up the microphone the song really hits its groove. Ginty wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on the album and I’m just starting to listen closely to his lyrics. He’s got a good touch with the words as well.
There’s a bit of funk in Captain Hook. Ginty describes some of his work as “Outlaw Gospel” and I think this might be one example. His organ work has a definite gospel feel and Pheonyx changes her vocal approach by toning down the edge and attitude a bit. It’s an interesting song, and I might have to give it a couple more listens to really get into to it.
There’s more of that with the piano opening on Mountains Have My Name. Pheonyx has more of the edge in her voice for this song, and Ginty’s keyboards have that old-time tent show feel to them. I’ll have to give this one another listen as well.
Mr. Blues just might be my favorite song on the album. It starts out with some hot jazzy licks on the keys, drums, and guitar. Pheonyx’ voice takes on the gritty dark story and tells it with every fiber in her soul. I’ll be playing this one on Time For The Blues and I’m sure it will pop up on many other blues shows as well.
WKYA is a minute-long skit written and performed by rapper-actor Reggie Nobles, aka “Redman.” I’m not well versed in his music, although I know who he is, I know his work mainly through his movies. It’s an interesting piece, although the comedy isn’t my style.
Back to the music with Priscilla. It’s a good story song and Pheonyx delivers it well. The music is lush and is well orchestrated. He follows with the funky, hard driving Electric. It’s a good rocker and the two songs fit well together.
Ginty and Pheonyx slow down for Maybe If You Catch Me, and Pheonyx’ voice becomes a mellow seductive purr. It’s a lovely song and it helps to show her versatility. She has done an exceptional job handling all of the lead vocals on this album.
The close out the album with the title track, Rockers. It’s a hard rock anthem that describes their approach to the music. Blues purists, be ready, this is not the Delta, hell, it’s not even Chicago, this is hard rock meets prog rock and Ginty’s keys get a real workout on this wild instrumental.
I certainly knew Ginty’s work prior to this album, but I was unaware of Aster Pheonyx, and if this album does anything, it shines a big spotlight on this talented woman. Her voice is powerful and she has a commanding presence throughout the album. Ginty’s B3 mixes beautifully with her vocals and the pair make an exciting team.
I know they have plans to tour this summer and I’ll be looking for them at every festival and nightclub I can find. If you want to check them out, start with Ginty’s website: https://www.johngintymusic.com/ and see if you can find them somewhere down the road.