Beyond Cleary’s considerable skills as a tunesmith he is equally renowned around the globe as an accomplished keyboardist and guitarist, and a deeply soulful vocalist. Cleary’s thirty-five years of intensive hands-on work on the Crescent City scene has made him a respected peer of such New Orleans R&B icons as Dr. John and Allen Toussaint. Toussaint, in fact, took time from his busy schedule to write most of the horn arrangements for GoGo Juice – thus bringing symmetry to Cleary’s recording of an entire album of Toussaint songs, entitled Occapella, which garnered rave reviews in 2012.
In addition to the Toussaint touch, GoGo Juice bursts, full flavor, with expert accompaniment by some of New Orleans’ top session men – including guitarist Shane Theriot, fellow keyboardist and vocalist Nigel Hall, and the Dirty Dozen horns – along with members of Cleary’s band, the Absolute Monster Gentlemen. (In praise of Cleary’s chemistry with this latter group, the eminent music journalist David Fricke of Rolling Stone declared that “Cleary can be an absolute monster on his own, but Cleary’s full combo R&B is as broad, deep and roiling as the Mississippi River, the combined swinging product of local keyboard tradition, Cleary’s vocal-songwriting flair for moody Seventies soul and the spunky-Meters roll of his Gentlemen”). Grammy Award-winning producer John Porter comes to GoGo Juice with a distinguished resume that includes work with the diverse likes of Elvis Costello, Carlos Santana and B. B. King, to name just a few.
Such diversity similarly characterizes the essence of Jon Cleary’s work and career. While thoroughly steeped in the classic Crescent City keyboard canon – from Jelly Roll Morton to Fats Domino to Art Neville, James Booker, and beyond – Cleary uses that century’s worth of pianistic brilliance as a point of departure to forge his own unique and eclectic style. As heard in the widely varied grooves and textures of GoGo Juice, Cleary’s sound incorporates such far-flung influences as ‘70s soul, gospel music, funk, Afro-Caribbean (and especially Afro-Cuban) rhythms and more. “I love New Orleans R&B, “ Cleary explains. “I’m a student of it – and a fan, first and foremost. But there’s little point in just going back and re-recording the old songs – although on my live solo shows, especially in New Orleans, I make a point of trying to keep the fast- disappearing tradition of the R&B pianist/singer alive by playing the old songs that are in danger of being forgotten. As for recording, however, I think the greatest New Orleans R&B records are the ones that built on what went before but also added something new. By writing new songs you get to channel all the music you absorb through your own individual set of filters – and the fun is in seeing what emerges.”
Cleary has gloriously achieved this desired synthesis of tradition-rooted originality and forward thinking on GoGo Juice. From the ska-inflected “Pump It Up” to the life-affirming Fellini-esque “second line” that is “Boneyard,” from the introspective confessional ballad “Step Into My Life” to the rambunctious funk of “Getcha GoGo Juice,” from the exquisitely unhurried syncopation of “Love On One Condition” to the pulsing Southern-soul feel of “Beg, Steal or Borrow,” GoGo Juice makes a deep personal statement by Cleary and shimmers as a multi-faceted jewel of variegated grooves.
Besides the great musicianship displayed by all who play on this album, Cleary’s songwriting similarly shines. The joyous “Getcha GoGo Juice” – “comprised entirely of lines I’ve overheard people say in New Orleans” – revels in such idiosyncratic, pithy gems of Crescent City argot as “you don’t need a license til you get caught” and “I don’t need the money, just the people I owe”. In drawing on this rich resource, Cleary followed the advice of the great New Orleans songwriter Earl King to “keep a little notepad and always jot down the trash-talking you hear on the street.” “9 to 5,” a condemnation of shallow materialism, is also based on New Orleans street language, and its title is based on a line from the traditional songs “Junker Blues” and “Junco Partner” -- “Six months ain’t no sentence, and one year ain’t no time, they got boys in penitentiary doing nine to ninety-nine”:
All the beautiful people in my cable TV
They’re looking through the screen and smiling at me
And it’s all cool and lovely
In that video world
Sunsets and islands
Diamonds and pearls
9-5 sho feel like 9-99
Hand to mouth
Ain’t nothing but marking time
On a related note “Brother I’m Hungry” examines the harshly contrasting proximity of wealth and poverty, from the compassionate perspective of “there but for the grace of god go I”:
We guard our jealous fortune
We got our slice of pie
Now this all begs the question
How long ‘til you and I
Might find ourselves in the same situation
How long before we all got to cry…
On a lighter note, in view of such grim realities, “Boneyard” encourages us all to enjoy life while we can:
Before I’m nuttin’ but rag and bones
Gonna gather no moss like a rolling stone
Before I make it to the boneyard
I’m gonna have my fun…
And “Bringing Back The Home” reveals Cleary’s deep love for, and understanding of, his adopted home since 1980 and references the plight of the estimated hundred thousand New Orleanians that fled Hurricane Katrina and who ten years later have yet to return:
Bringing back the home
Of the greatest gift that
America gave the world
Jazz, funk, rhythm and blues, and soul
Buddy Bolden blow your horn
It’s time to call your children home
A new wind is blowing through us all
Like driftwood washed up on the shore
Of a strange foreign land
Tired, broke, got nowhere to turn
If nobody minds the store
Lord have mercy on the 504
Jon Cleary’s love and affinity for New Orleans music goes back to the rural British village of Cranbrook, Kent, where he was raised in a musical family. Cleary’s maternal grandparents performed under the respective stage names Sweet Dolly Daydream and Frank Neville, ‘The Little Fellow With The Educated Feet’ – she as a singer, and he as a tap dancer. His father was a 50’s skiffle man and taught him the rudiments as soon as he was big enough to reach around the neck of his guitar. Upon attaining double-digit age Cleary became avidly interested in funk-filled music, buying records and intently studying their labels and album covers in order to glean as much information as possible. Such perusal revealed that three songs he especially loved — LaBelle’s “Lady Marmalade,” Robert Palmer’s version of“Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” and Frankie Miller’s rendition of “Brickyard Blues” – were attributed to Allen Toussaint as either the songwriter, the producer, or both. Cleary’s knowledge expanded significantly when his Uncle, musician Johnny Johnson returned from a sojourn in New Orleans in the early 70’s and brought back two suitcases of rare and obscure local 45s, which allowed the adolescent Cleary to pursue his study of R&B in great depth, with special attention to the New Orleans sound that increasingly captivated him.
As soon as he was old enough to leave school in 1980 Cleary took off for the Crescent City. When his flight touched down a taxi took him straight to the Maple Leaf, a funky Uptown bar which then featured such New Orleans piano legends as Roosevelt Sykes and James Booker. Cleary got a job painting the club, and lived a few doors down for a time, allowing him unlimited free access to all the great New Orleans music performed within. One night when James Booker didn’t show up, the club’s manager insisted that Jon get up and play before the paying customers demanded a refund. Thrust suddenly into the spotlight Jon was ready, willing and able to play his first paying gig in New Orleans – and although he had come to town as a guitarist, this debut was also the first step of his career as a pianist.
Soon Cleary reached the existential crossroads of either devoting his life to the city’s music, or returning to England. Cleary chose New Orleans, and before long he began to land sideman gigs with the venerable likes of such New Orleans R&B legends (and his childhood heroes) as guitarists Snooks Eaglin, and Earl “Trick Bag” King, and singers Johnny Adams, and Jessie Hill.
By 1989, Cleary had recorded his first album of eight including the new GoGo Juice. His increasingly high-profile performances revealed a level of proficient versatility that led to recording sessions and international touring work – in an appropriately wide stylistic range – in the bands of Taj Mahal, John Scofield, Dr. John and, most notably, Bonnie Raitt. As a songwriter, he has written and co-written songs with and for Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal and the decade that he spent working with Raitt inspired her to unabashedly dub Cleary “the ninth wonder of the world.”
Jon Cleary left Bonnie Raitt’s band in 2009 to concentrate on his own music. And now, 35 years since he arrived in New Orleans, Cleary has made an eloquent, definitive and future-classic artistic statement. “Funk is the ethnic folk music of New Orleans,” Cleary says, "and I wanted to infuse GoGo Juice with a sound that was true to the city I love. It's the kind of record that could only be made in New Orleans."
Born in 1969 in San Mateo, California, blues guitarist Eric Lindell spent much of his youth in nearby Santa Rosa and Forestville. Although he worked as a baker by day, Lindell turned his focus to music in the evenings, honing his chops as a competent vocalist and guitarist by playing in bars around Sonoma County. He produced his debut album, Bring It Back, in 1996, and in 1999 he won the John Lennon Songwriting Competition with his original piece "Kelly Ann." That same year, Lindell decided to move to New Orleans to pursue music in a different location. The move was a beneficial one, as Lindell soon hooked up with Galactic's Stanton Moore and began playing shows around town, frequently enlisting drummers Johnny Vidocovich and Harold Brown (from War) to sit in.
He issued a self-released, self-titled record in 2002, but the following year saw him move to Sparco Records, where he released both Piety Street Session and EP Volume 1. Tragic Magic followed in 2005 and sparked serious interest from Alligator Records, which released Change in the Weather in 2006 and Low on Cash, Rich in Love in 2008. Lindell continued his prolific output with 2009's Gulf Coast Highway, another album of blue-eyed soul and confident guitar work. Leaving Alligator Records, Lindell put out a couple of albums to sell at gigs, 2010’s Cazadero and 2011’s Between Motion and Rest, both of which were combined in a two-disc release entitled West County Drifter from M.C. Records in the fall of 2011.
That year also saw the release of Live in New Orleans, the first record from his New Orleans-based supergroup Dragon Smoke, which also featured Ivan Neville. The next year brought I Still Love You, another studio set from the guitarist. Dragon Smoke put out another live set, Live at Wanee 2015, in 2015 but Lindell's next big project was Matters of the Heart. Released in the spring of 2016, Matters of the Heart was co-produced in part by Luther Dickinson and featured guitar from Anson Funderburgh.
Jimmy Nick is an old-fashioned, guitar slinging blues prodigy who spent his teenage years being schooled by legendary bluesmen in the famous Chicago clubs of Kingston Mines, Rosa’s Lounge, and B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted.
Over the last year Jimmy has recorded his first live album for a full house at The Raue Center for the Performing Arts, performed over 200 shows*, advanced to the semifinals at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, as well as headlined at Buddy Guy’s Legends, and B.L.U.E.S on Halstead. Most recently, he was featured on the WGN Morning News.
In addition, Jimmy has opened for the legendary Eddie Shaw, Bobby Rush, Toronzo Canon, Dick Dale, The Mike Wheeler Band and performed at SXSW. Jimmy has sold over 1,500 copies of his 3rd studio album –Rare Breed, which features Eddie Shaw performing with Jimmy on his original blues tune “Greedy Man”.
Jimmy Nick has also shared the stage with John Mayall, Ted Nugent,Samantha Fish, Pat Travers, Savoy Brown, Los Lonely Boys, Gov’t Mule, Kenny Wayne Shepard and more. Jimmy Nick & Don’t Tell Mama continue to be one of the most requested and hard working bands in the Chicagoland area.
Today Jimmy’s mission is to expose the next generation to the blues. Driven by his motown-tight band, Don’t Tell Mama, featuring saxophone, bass, and drums Jimmy excites crowds with his electrifying guitar work, fresh harp, clever lyrics and animated stage theatrics. His high energy blues and rock-n-roll captivate audiences, and forge instant fans.
From the Rev's page:
Reverend Raven: You know I hate these cookie cutter bios. I know they are necessary but you are only as good as last night's gig. I really haven't done anything special except open and meet B.B. King and have the honor of backing up Madison Slim for 10yrs, playing with great guys like R.J. Mischo, Cadillac Pete Rahn, Benny Rickun, PT Pedersen SC, Bobby Lee Sellers Jr, Big Al Groth, Bryan Lee, Billy Flynn, Pat Hayes and all the guys in my band present and past. Guys like Rick Holmes, Chico Johnson, Devil Roberts, Diesel, Evil Evans, Craig Panosh, Kern, Barefoot Jimmy, Frankie Panosh, Chuck Might, Mickey Larson, Benny Rickun many more. I get to go to festivals and see my heros, friends like Perry Weber, Jim Liban, Billy Flynn and get paid for it. That is cool. I've been blessed with great love, good friends and family and the ability to earn a living playing guitar and standing on chairs and tables. If I can put a smile on your face and get you to shake your rear end I've done a good job.
Now here is the standard one:
Born and raised on south side of Chicago, the Reverend has been playing the blues since 1971 when he first saw Freddy King play at the Kinetic Theatre in Chicago. After 15 year hitch in the Navy he moved to Milwaukee where he began a long friendship and collaboration with Madison Slim, long time harmonica player for Jimmy Rogers. Since 1990 he has opened for B.B King, Gatemouth Brown, Pinetop Perkins, Koko Taylor Band, Junior Wells, Billy Branch, Magic Slim, Elvin Bishop, Sugar Blue, Lonnie Brooks, William Clarke, Lefty Dizz, Rod Piazza, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Duke Robillard, Jeff Healy, Trampled Underfoot, Mike Zito, Nick Moss, Tommy Castro and numerous others at festivals and at Buddy Guy’s Legends where he has been on rotation as a headliner for 16 years.
Westside Andy is one of the premier harp players to come out of Wisconsin along with Jim Liban, Steve Cohen, Madison Slim, Matthew Skoller and Cadillac Pete Rahn. A long time member of Paul Black's Flip Kings and his own band, The Westside Andy/Mel Ford Band, he's played just about everywhere and with anyone of note in the blues world.
More modern facts include that Hohner, Inc. lists him as an endorser alongside Rod Piazza, Toots Thielemans, & Corky Siegel, among many other great players. Those who know who these folks are, nothing further need be said. Turn the page.
For those who haven't had that good fortune, know that these are giants on Planet Harmonica. Actually, Corky was one of Andy's most enthusiastic early mentors. In fact, the night they met during a Siegel/Schwall Blues Band set break, Corky asked him to sit in for the entire next set. Andy was 15.
That may have been the galvanizing moment when the "Westside" story really started. Meaning thousands of gigs. Probably a million miles with a trunk full of gear, and how many late nights driving home in ice and snow in the groovy winters of Wisconsin where this blues bird resides. In the process, Andy has shared the stage with James Cotton, Luther Allison, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Charlie Musselwhite, Doobie Brothers, Richie Havens, Muddy Waters, Gary Primich, Jimmy Johnson, Tab Benoit, Hubert Sumlin. Ok, you get the idea. Not to mention his current long-time collaboration with Mel Ford, a blues guitarist/vocalist/songwriter of wide acclaim.
Craig Panosh was our drummer in 1997 and 1998. In 1999 he left to tour with Bernard Allison and later with Bryan Lee. His brother Spencer was our drummer for 11 years. Now after 18 years he returns to the drum throne and brings a family history of percussion to the show.
Craig is a third generation musician from the legendary Panosh family dynasty, who’s roots run deep though out the history of American music. A family with lineage dating back to the big band era (Grandfather Emery Sr.) of the 30’s-40’s & (Father Gino) Chess Records of the late 50’s-60’s respectfully. Craig is widely known for his work around the world with Bernard Allison, Bryan Lee, and The Ken Saydak Band.
Over the years within the music industry, Craig has accepted numerous drumming/percussion awards, and has been featured in Modern Drummer magazine. Here are a few quotes from other articles.
“The consummate professional”
“Not only technically skilled but also withholds the deep pocket with power and dynamics”.
“One of Wisconsin’s very own treasures”
He has recorded at the BBC in London, and performed on VOA (Voice Of American) live to US, Asia, Africa, and the Mideast. Craig has enjoyed a career of supporting some of the finest artists on tour today, and has traveled to more then 10 countries playing some of the worlds largest music venues and festivals. While not touring Craig also enjoys performing with his own project Drumapalooza The Band, which also includes his brother/drummer Spencer.
Craig can be found on these DVD’s:
Bernard Allison – Kentucky Fried Blues
Bryan Lee – Live And Dangerous
P.T. Pederson honed his skills on the road and recording with Charlie Musslewhite in the late 60's early 70s, replacing one of his idols the great Jack Myers. He went on to play with Charlie Musslewhite, John Brim,Big Walter Horton, Johnny Young, Luther Tucker, Lowell Fulson, Fenton Robinson, Koko Taylor, Big Time Sarah, John Brim, Robben Ford, Pinetop Perkins and Sunnyland Slim. At home in Milwuakee he played with Jim Liban and Brian Lee. Blessed with a great sense of rhythm and time he takes the rock at our live shows and gives the old man a break by tearing up the house with his great choice of grooves.