London 28th October 2016
For a part-time band (Jim ‘J.D.’Dolan is a business executive) this outfit seriously cut it, both in terms of material and delivery. They may not do this all the time, but they are absolutely not playing around. The band are all stellar musicians, but any band is only as good as its material and on that basis, they are very, very good indeed. Regular fiddle player Erin Slaver is off the road for a spell, but Mary Jo Stillip and guitarist/vocalist Erin McCarley ensured smooth Americana still flowed without apparent effort.
What we have here is a rare but welcome phenomenon – adult music dealing with adult subjects from a man who is happy to acknowledge in songs like Where I’ve Been, that he has enjoyed more of life than he is going to get now.
Mr Dolan has a wonderfully downbeat tenor that suits his soulful (but never miserable) vocal outings on songs like Lawless, used in a movie soundtrack, but sung by Willie Nelson, and the message anthem Under That Hood, about innocent black teenager Trayvon Martin, shot by a neighbourhood watch operative. The sweeter tones of the Dolan voice were used to great effect on the Spirit cover Nature’s Way, but the finest song of the evening was Better Find A Church – a tale of wrong and redemption that single-handedly encapsulates the entire appeal of this band. It’s their complete grasp of the atmosphere of Americana blues, played sparingly but perfectly, all instruments in perfect harmony, solos spare and carefully placed and played with the skill you’d expect from musicians of this calibre. Girls Night Out enjoyed a spirited Dr John vibe which carried on into Ballyhoo – seeing J.D. adopt a sinister fairground barker persona with great effect.
The band finished on a high note with Little Feat’s perennial concert favourite Let It Roll, and another appreciative audience built another brick in the band’s road to the recognition they deserve for the lyrical, vocal and musical skill they bring to the table.
Detractors may try and say that this is a businessman’s vanity project, but that is to miss the vital point – if you are not good at what you do, you don’t sell records and tickets or get the major support slots that this band enjoys. It deserves to get bigger and a bigger audience, because this is a great live band who clearly love playing together and the future looks bright. Catch them in 2017 before they take off around the world and everyone else realises what a gem J.D. & The Straight Shot is. You read it here first.