“John Street” is an extremely special and well-made project that is by far the best album Mike Montrey ever has made, including the two with Water
I’ve always liked how Mike Montrey Band can get soulful and funky like Prince, then downright down home, like Neil Young, depending on the track and its arrangement. Montrey does that with his new masterpiece, “John Street,” but particularly flexes his Young muscles with the help of sought-after session player Dave Pearlman on pedal steel and dobro. An exceptional lead guitarist in his own right, Montrey leaves most of the lead parts to Pearlman and focuses on some tasty pickin’ ‘n’ strummin’ on acoustic and the best use of a whistle since Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.”
A great deal of help also comes from two Grammy winners: producer-engineer Jim Scott (Wilco, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Santana, and Tedeschi Trucks Band) and keyboardist John Ginty (Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Citizen Cope). With his signature Hammond B3, Ginty helps Montrey pour his soul into this record, while Scott also gets fantastic performance out of longtime Montrey bassist Anthony Duca and co-vocalist Jen Augustine and new drummer Rob Smith. He weaves them all together nicely with a wonderful sense of timing that heightens the emotions of each of the songs, such as with the steel guitar and whistle that come in after a cacophony that seems like a false ending on “Slow and Easy.” Scott also contributes a fun toy piano on tracks.
The many excellent duets and counter harmonies Augustine offers on about half of the 11-song album is another high point. Her smoky alto complements Montrey’s soulful, scratchy falsetto beautifully, especially on the fun-hearted “Coffee and Suspenders,” the call-and-response of “Everytime the Sun Begins to Show,” the aforementioned “Slow and Easy,” the Neil Young-inspired “Aether and Chaos, Beauty and Wine,” and “I Am a Freight Train,” which recalls Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow.
“John Street” also features some of Montrey’s strongest lyrics, such as on the opening angst of “Blanket Full of Dust”: “So can you hear me now, I’m screaming with my voice worn down. My soul is tired, but it’s full of hope, and leaps and bounds. I need a railing to hold onto before I hit the ground. I need a chisel and some sandpaper to scrape away the rust and stagger towards my blanket full of dust.”
I also like the visual line in “Coffee and Suspenders”: “Like chameleons in the forest haze, we’re dancing in our own charade, disguised in the afternoon.” And then there’s a harvest of gold in two Neil Young-inspired tracks. In the aforementioned “Aether,” Montrey shares, “Sometimes I think that it’s all just a sham/Hour by hour, minute by minute, through each grain of sand/One second you’re older, one second you told her, one second you ran/And in an instant he grew up, before you knew what, who, where or when.” And then in “For Her,” he pines, “You leave that window closed for rain, always ready for the doom, impending pain. But you left your dreams outside to rot, like it or not.”
This is the first album of the year to make me think about my top 10 list. I am very confident that “John Street” will sit there all year long. Check it out with Mike Montrey Band’s new live pedal steel player, Steve Benson, when they celebrate the release of “John Street” on March 2 at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park opening for Gregg Allman Band guitarist Scott Sharrard and March 3 at John & Peter’s in New Hope. Tour dates will include March 14 and 15 at SXSW in Austin; March 23 and 24, Cape May Singer-Songwriter Festival; March 28, Bitter End, New York City; April 26, Elbo Room, Chicago, and May 25, Shakedown Bar, Vail, Colo.
Tommy Castro & The Painkillers To Return To Lizzie Rose Music Room (TUCKERTON, NJ) -- Tommy Castro & the Painkillers return to the Lizzie Rose Music Room on Wednesday, April 17 at 7:30pm. Whether he’s squeezing out the deepest blues or playing the funkiest soul grooves, legendary blues and soul giant Tommy Castro knows how to ignite a crowd. Tickets are $38.00 Advance and $45.00 day of show.Experience Hendrix at NJPAC on March 29th (NEWARK, NJ) -- Celebrate the music and legacy of Jimi Hendrix as Experience Hendrix comes to Newark’s New Jersey Performing Arts Centeron Friday, March 29 at 8:00pm. This critically acclaimed multi-artist tribute to Hendrix features performances by Billy Cox, Joe Satriani, Dave Mustaine, Jonny Lang, Dweezil Zappa, Eric Johnson, Doug Pinnick, Chris Layton, Mato Nanji, Kenny Aronoff, The Slide Brothers, Henri Brown, Kevin McCormick and special guest Taj Mahal. World Famous Bachata Artists To Take The Stage for Uforia Bachata Fest 2019 At Prudential Center on Saturday, March 16 (NEWARK, NJ) -- Uforia Bachata Fest 2019 at Prudential Center will bring together the world’s best Bachata artists including, Frank Reyes “The Prince of Bachata”, Hector Acosta “El Torito”, Zacarias Ferreira, Luis Vargas and Raulin Rodriguez "El Cacique”. Uforia Bachata Fest 2019, presented by Zamora Live, Euforia Radio (Univision) and Corona Extra, will be held on Saturday, March 16 at 8:00pm. The contagious Caribbean rhythm known as "Bachata" will have its gala night, marking the first time in history these world-renowned artists will perform on the same stage. Youth Symphony and Youth Orchestra To Perform at Princeton University January 27 (PRINCETON, NJ) -- The New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJYS) continues its 40th Anniversary with a concert featuring the NJYS Youth Symphony and Youth Orchestra on Sunday, January 27 at 4:00pm at Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University located at 68 Nassau Street in Princeton. Youth Symphony will open the concert with Mahler Symphony No. 1 in D major followed by Youth Orchestra performing Dvořák Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88. Rickie Lee Jones To Perform At Grunin Center (TOMS RIVER, NJ) -- Two-time Grammy winner Rickie Lee Jones exploded onto the pop scene in 1978 and has made a career of fearlessly experimenting with her sound and persona on more than 15 critically acclaimed albums. She brings her show “An Intimate Evening with Rickie Lee Jones” to the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts on Friday, February 22 at 8:00pm.
The Empire Strikes Back in Concert with the NJSO LIVE! at the State Theatre Some of our favorite childhood memories growing up at the Jersey Shore involved going to our town’s grand old movie palace, The Community Theater, in Toms River. Built with colonial architecture and featuring large white columns in the front, paned glass windows in the lobby, a circular brick walk from the sidewalk to the box office, and a white picket fence which enclosed a lawn and a flower bed, this local gem presented the latest Hollywood films. For kids like us back in the 1960’s, that meant pictures like Mary Poppins, Cinderella, The Love Bug, and Flipper.Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes At Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme This coming Sunday, January 20, Scott Wolfson and his band will be serving up their unique blend of Americana at the Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme series at Investors Bank Theater in Succasunna, New Jersey. The band – Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes – formed in Jersey City in 2011, and, even though the members have migrated in various directions since then, they still consider themselves to be a Jersey City band."He Totally Wowed Us!" John Oates LIVE! at SOPAC It’s brisk for an evening walk on South Orange Ave. in South Orange, NJ, this Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 evening, but it’s a good road to follow as it leads us directly to the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) for a special performance by singer, songwriter, and guitarist John Oates and his backup group, The Good Road Band.“Tons of Fun!” The Glenn Miller Orchestra LIVE! at the Grunin Center Although Friday, December 21, 2018 is the shortest day of the year, the audience of big band music lovers here at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts is hoping for a long evening of classic swing and holiday tunes performed by the incomparable Glenn Miller Orchestra!Mike Davis and The New Wonders Mike Davis traces his love for the trumpet back to a Disney movie.
He grew up in a musical family, with both his parents playing strings in the Seattle Symphony. But Davis wanted an instrument of his own.
Then, at age 9, he saw “The Aristocats,” the animated film about a bunch of French felines — including a group of jazz-playing alley cats.