Thursday, June 12, 2008

Golden Hearts reviewed by David Stine

Golden Hearts
The Juvenators
Circle Records
10 tracks

I received two Juvenators CDs to review and I was really torn--one was a studio CD, the other a live recording. After several listens, I decided on the studio CD because it was all original songs.

The Juvenators are four (sometimes augmented by keys and sax: see YouTube and band website) middle-aged guys from southern Mississippi. Virgil Brawley sings and plays guitar, as does Bob “Byrd” Lovell. Bass chores are accomplished by George Vance, who sings backup as well. Guy Wade plays drums. As I said, all the songs on the CD were written by Lovell and Brawley.

The Juvenators are like so many blues bands currently playing clubs, bars, weddings, small festivals: older guys who got together to have some fun and make a little money. What makes the Juvenators stand out is that they write, they play well, and their songs are memorable. Also, they don’t seem to have been affected by the Stevie-Ray- Vaughanizing of a lot of blues. No distortion pedals here; no over-the-top solos that are too long. Somewhere on the web, I read that their influences are “old, black, and mostly dead,” and it shows.

The Juvenators are a solid blues band with fully active libidos: lots of references to girls in see-through clothing, cars with big back seats, and love that “hurts.” Besides the fun tunes like “See Through Dress“ (sic), “Wears Her Clothes, “ Love Me Til It Hurts,” “Huntin‘ For Fun,” and “’53 Buick,” there are a couple of slow blues tunes. “Sho Had A Good Thing,” sung by Lovell, is reminiscent of the Allman Brothers sans the organ. I like Lovell’s voice a lot. Brawley has a tendency to drop the note slightly at the end of his phrases, for effect, I believe, but to the casual listener, it might sound like he’s going a little flat. Lovell plays lead and slide guitar, while Brawley play rhythm. There are no Claptons here, but who cares--they do what they do. Nor are there any Otis Reddings here--but they do what they do. I did think that Guy Wade’s drumming is fairly “heavy handed.” The mix on the “Hearts” has the snare as loud as the vocal and lead guitar. Since Wade’s snare is just as prominent on the live disc, I assume he’s just a really “loud” drummer.

As I said, I found myself singing these songs to myself, and to me, that’s one of the marks of song worthiness--if it keeps coming back. These songs for me were “Sho Had A Good Thing,” “Love Me Til It Hurts,” and the title track, “Golden Hearts.”

You may not ever get a chance to see the Juvenators live, but you can dig them up on YouTube and their website (although I couldn’t make it load the several times I tried). We hear all the time about the future of the blues or the blues of the 20s or 50s or 60s, but these guys are the PRESENT of the blues. The Juvenators are a solid and enjoyable band that you may have never heard of; but you should check out.

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