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EP Review :

Out Of The Blue by JFK Blue

Anne Estella

Down The Front Magazine

Hot on the heels of their 2017 debut album, 'Rough Round The Edges', London collective JFK BLUE have returned with their second release, entitled 'Out Of The Blue'. Kicking off the 4-track EP, opener ‘Innocent Killer’ makes its uplifting, hook-laden presence felt with a driving bluesy dynamic, incorporating lengthy, jazzy swathes of psychedelic synths and keyboards into some passages, with scorching hard rock riffage rampantly injected into others. The unpredictable, shapeshifting nature of the record becomes apparent very early on with twists and turns around every corner - even the track’s very last note provides a little surprise!

 

Second track ‘All Comes Down’ delivers a breezy, carefree melody tinged with an air of melancholy, that presents a striking contrast to its predecessor. The layered soundscape and meandering instrumentals leave a dreamy trail that conjures up a vision of waves gently caressing exotic shores. This would be a perfect track to accompany a leisurely summer evening’s drive. Meanwhile, the vibrant, funky beat of ‘Slave’ brings the likes of Jamiroquai to mind. Again, we have something different on our hands, an organic creature that morphs and develops as it grows, capturing the sound of classic ‘80s Pop-Rock within its chorus, before ending abruptly, leaving you wondering what’s next. 

 

Closing track ‘Better Than Nothing’ lends a darker, more dramatic tone to the record. This expressive, catchy song about heartbreak adds gusto to its melody with heartfelt vocals and a jangly piano. Heavy riffs and a very tasty guitar solo give the track a rockier edge and the overall composition demonstrates fine musicianship and impressive craftsmanship. This is my favourite track on the EP and its tune and lyrics will still be reverberating around my head the next day….“You gave me nothing but blue skies, but the clouds got in the way, that’s still better than nothing”.  

 

Keyboard player Michael Kasper has joined the band since their previous release and has evidently brought a new direction to their sound. The band also boasts three principle songwriters, who have each brought their own slant and style to the table. Whereas the first album was recorded in four days in an analogue studio using vintage equipment (resulting in a live sound that took its inspiration from bands of the ‘60s), the new EP was recorded digitally and had considerably more time spent on its production. The outcome is a collection of four distinct songs, which showcase the thought and passion that has gone into their creation. Aptly titled, Out Of The Blue is a departure from the band’s debut album as it’s not as Blues oriented – In fact, JFK BLUE state as their philosophy “Our home is the Blues, but we go out a lot!” Ultimately, the variety on offer within this succinct opus reflects a band of diverse influences who are willing, and able, to cover all the bases.

 

'Out Of The Blue', which was launched at London’s The 100 Club on 30th October, is set to drop at the end of November and is a precursor to the band’s sophomore studio album, which is scheduled to land next year.

JFK Blue Live Gig Review- Blues At The Woodlands Gillingam Kent '18

We welcomed this new band to the club where our audience are pretty knowledgeable and appreciate really good music .

 

JFK Blue thoroughly entertained and delighted us all with 2 full sets of high intensity music either side of an interval. On this night they were down to a 4 piece as their keyboard player had to fly home to Latvia urgently.

 

They played for the best part of the gig their own original music taken from Rough Round The Edges their last album and some new tracks from their forthcoming EP release Out Of The Blue ( release date 30th November ) which was a mixture of what they refer to as “ a style of blues and rock with freedom of expression to not get hung up on genres but to play music that we create and believe in. With three principle songwriters our influences are many and varied, this reflects in our music which has been described as shapeshifting” 

 

JFK Blue are no doubt a force to be reckoned with exciting music played with both gusto and professionalism , it was great to see how they interacted with each other and kept things fresh especially when the more than talented Sol Ezra on drums kept the guys on their toes with the colourful patterns he played, Iago Barnet on lead guitar sprinkled magic to everything he played, Lead singer and Guitarist Chris Elliott , what a great voice with a style of his own which brings that extra you need in a front man ,on bass guitar Leslie Fleischman produced outstanding bass lines and depth to the JFK Blue performance . 

 

All in all a fabulous band who I know we all really enjoyed and want to see back and are indeed booked for a return to the club !!

 

Derek Wells ‘Blues at the Woodlands’

JFK Blue Live Gig - Tuesday Night Music Club

It’s always difficult to follow such a well received set - it’s almost as if the gauntlet has been thrown down. But follow it JFK Blue did and with some style as they tore through numbers from their debut album, ‘Rough Round The Edges’ and some new songs. This was, it seemed, a band on a mission. Ably fronted by on guitars and vocals the pace was frantic from the off but amazingly just built and built. Sol Ezra and Leslie Fleischman held down the back line with Sol also contributing backing vocals from the drum stool. And then there was Iago Banet who’s guitar can only be described as ‘passionate’. Hammering riffs out one moment and then playing the most delicate of lead lines the next he had more than a few jaws dropping around the room. With the frantic pace they set there really was no time for chat or introductions between songs - as one finished they were all ready to launch into the next. It was all over before we had a chance to grab a breath… and once again that queue at the merch stand grew…

 

Richard Dunning

           Album review:  JFK Blue

        ROUGH ROUND THE EDGES

‘Rough Around The Edges’ is an impressive debut album with plenty of depth. It’s born of 11 strong and original tracks that jump out the grooves on the back of emotive vocals and fine band interplay, topped by tasteful solos.

The album title probably carries more truth than the band would like, but not in a negative way. They tread a thin line between pursuing original songcraft with a live in the studio approach that gives them their edge and drive.

They start with a bang, as heartfelt vocalist and principal songwriter Chris Elliott illuminates his poignant lyrics on the stop-time chorus of ‘St. Joseph’. The hook draws the listener into a classic opening track that sets the standard for so much good stuff

The liner notes also help the listener get inside an album full of songs in the old sense of the word.  The composite is given its edge by an analogue approach to recording, which apparently extended to nailing everything in barely 5 days.

The key to the band’s refreshing music is the head-on meeting of contemporary values – up to date material with a modern singer-songwriter approach – with the old school values of excellent musicianship and a sonic brightness.

‘Rough Around The Edges’ does indeed sound like the product of a live band stretching their material the limit. This is especially so on the anthemic hook of ‘Shadowlands’, which benefits from an uplifting bridge before guitarist Iago Banet glues it all together with a defining solo.

They slip into some languid swing on ‘Can’t Tell The Truth’, on which Jim Darby’s earthy harp solo is mixed a shade too far back, a fact emphasized by the brief, but potent following slide guitar line.

No matter, it’s the kind of laid back after hours groove that only a hugely confident band would drop in at track three.

The beautifully crafted ‘If You Change Your Mind’  is an exercise in subtle dynamics.  The stripped down meeting of voice and words is bolstered by subtle band support, as the number gently builds to a melodic guitar solo that adds to the song’s feel rather than dominates it.

The album’s sequencing draw us into a free flowing equilibrium on the back of the sculpted wah-wah reggae feel of ‘Shed A Light’ and the following second line instrumental link ‘NOLA (Gimme The Funk)’.

The latter brings unexpected diversity and a tension building mid-set lift. The band duly resolves this with a Faces style opening of ‘I Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll’. It’s the only time where a lack of a bigger vocal range holds back the quintet’s natural bluster.

‘Road Again’ is one of only 2 tracks on which they reveal some retro influences. It opens as a hard driving guitar-led piece with a significant organ sweep. They make the most of an overly familiar title, predicated on a muscular Andy Fraser (Free) style bass line. In contrast, the more tentative ‘Away From Me’ recalls early Canned Heat, while Elliot’s vocal evokes the late Al Wilson.

JFK Blue work hard to shape their own musical direction. They move from moments of focussed intensity to ebullient inspiration, as on the sudden shift from a gentle funk workout to a jazzy keyboard vamp on ‘Don’t Cry For Me’.

It’s the moment when the band finally cut loose and reveal their chops. They cleverly find their way back to base in a manner that would make Jerry Garcia and Warren Haynes fans smile.

They finish with the old school, self explanatory titled ‘Having A Real Good Time’, on which co-writer and keyboard player Paul Blount and guitarist Banet’s studied lines are underpinned by the nuanced rhythm section of bassist Leslie Fleischman and drummer Sol Ezra.

‘Rough Around the Edges’ is an organic triumph over space, time and probably budget. Given that it’s a song driven project rooted in the blues but never restricted by it, you suspect the band wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.  

Review by Pete Feenstra

Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00