Monday, January 9, 2012

Gimme the Jimmys reviewed by Mark Thompson

Gimme the Jimmys
The Jimmys
Brown Cow Productions
11 tracks/48:47

This one gets off to a rockin' start as our favorite band from  Monroe, WI delivers a high octane performance on "HaDaya HaDaya" that illustrates everything that makes this band special – tight musical interplay, a blazing hot horn section and Jimmy Voegeli's spirited vocals and keyboard work.  Drummer Mauro Magellan was an original member of the Georgia Satellites - his fellow band member, Dan Baird, adds his guitar to the track along with Warner Hodges of Jason & the Scorchers fame, who lays down a brief but incendiary guitar solo.

Voegeli wrote all of the songs for this project. He recorded two of the songs during his lengthy stint as a member of the Westside Andy/Mel Ford Band. The latest version of "Girl All Woman" emphasizes the New Orleans R&B elements of the song, with the tenor sax solo from Bryan Husk driving home the point. Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick contributes some cowbell to the track. "Love Will Find a Way" has a driving rhythm from Magellan and bassist Johnny Wartenweiler. Voegeli plays some rollicking piano lines and Ken "Birddog" Olufs gets a chance to showcase his skill on the harmonica. The horns bring an extra layer of liveliness to the track.

The pace slows on "Baby's So Fine" with Voegeli's compassionate vocal one of the disc's highlights, surrounded by the majestic sounds of his Hammond organ and a sympathetic alto sax solo from Peterson Ross. Baird's slide guitar on "She Don't Love Me" has the band sounding like the classic version of Little Feat. The instrumental "Jimmys Groove" establishes a blue-funk feel with the band's guitarist, Dave Potter, playing some of his always tasteful licks. Voegeli stars again on the organ as the horn section blasts away in the background and Carlos sits in on drums. "JiMo Boogie" features Magellan as the sole support for Voegeli's extended piano solo that again highlights the influence of the New Orleans piano tradition on his style along with a few hints of ragtime piano. Voegeli switches to the Rhodes electric piano on "All I Ask" and Potter gets a another chance to shine.

There are two songs that show the group's versatility as well as proving that they aren't afraid to move beyond more traditional material. The soulful "Hell or Heaven" has a mainstream rock sound with soaring vocals, a dynamic horn chart and a miin-guitar army comprised of Baird, Hodges and Billy Flynn. Baird plays a succinct solo at the mid-point before Flynn brings you home with some exquisite playing that captures the B.B. King sound. There is a second, shorter version of this track at the end of the disc, intended for radio play. "The Tree" is a distinct departure from the rest of the disc. Voegeli and his wife, Laura, often visit her mother. There is a small cemetery nearby that the couple often strolls through. They always pass by a grave that sits under a Yew tree. The song is Voegeli's imagining a possible storyline that ties together the departed soul and the tree. His dark, gloomy vision tells the tale of a father's love and sacrifice for his daughter, that later brings additional tragic consequences. The string section comprised of Chris Wagoneron on violin & viola and Mary Gaine on cello and parlor bass help establish the haunting mood. The Amateur Horn Stars - Husk, Ross and Chad Whittinhill on trumpet & flugelhorn - also make key contributions.

If you have caught one of the Jimmys live shows, you know what to expect from this disc - and you won't be disappointed. There is plenty of the band's upbeat, good-time music that they are famous for. Some might be slightly disappointed at the number of high-profile, special guests. But they all make solid contributions without impacting what the Jimmys are all about. And every band needs to find an edge that helps with their marketing. When you have a collection of musicians this talented, and a frontman with the charisma of Jimmy Voegeli, you are guaranteed plenty of musical fireworks. This is a fine first effort and has me already anxiously awaiting the next Jimmys recording.

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

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