Photo credits: Alan Grossman, Bill Reckert, and Greg Schoenborn
JON SPEAR MUSIC
Songwriting | Studio Recording | Live Music
DUSTY STREETS OFFICIAL VIDEO
RELEASE DATE: August 21, 2019
Award-winning singer/songwriter Jon Spear has built a strong reputation as a bluesman with his namesake group, the Jon Spear Band. In recent years, his band released three critically acclaimed CDs of mostly original music, all of which have charted in the USA, UK, France, Australia and other countries.
But Spear’s songwriting energy isn’t confined to blues and over the years, he’s penned songs in a number of genres including country, folk, rock and Americana. Those songs have never been recorded – until now.
In this new EP entitled Dusty Streets, Spear teamed up with a number of Central Virginia’s finest musicians to record six original songs. Singer Jennifer Dodge joins Spear for a duet on the EP’s title track, Dusty Streets, a country-tinged ballad about abandoned love. Dodge is a remarkable vocal talent who has enjoyed considerable popularity in Virginia with a voice big enough to successfully lead an Etta James tribute band. Pedal steel guitarist Jay Jessup helps create the right atmosphere for the song with licks that will remind listeners of Lloyd Green’s contributions to the classic Byrds Country Rock album Sweetheart of the Rodeo. The rest of the backing is provided by members of Spear’s band – Andy Burdetsky on bass and John Stubblefield on drums. Another special “guest” on this song is the century-old Gibson A3 mandolin that belonged to Spear’s grandfather, which Spear also plays on this song.
Additional original songs on the EP include: (2) “Forever Home” – a critter’s-eye view of pet adoption sung with an Everly Brothers type harmony; (3) “Mr. Bankerman” – an old-fashioned jump blues tune about being broke, featuring the rollicking boogie-woogie piano work of Matty Metcalfe, harmonica by Dara James and electric guitar by Spear; (4)
“Rollin’ On” – A song about living on the run. Spear sings all the vocals and plays all the instruments on this track, except for Dara James' expert dobro playing and the steady rollin' snare rhythm provided by drummer John Stubblefield; (5) “Cremation of Sam McGee” – the dark humor of Robert W. Service’s 1909 poem is put to music by Spear in this old school folk-style song, perfect for listening around a campfire with friends on a chilly night; and (6) “Time Machine Weed” – the title tells it all. Spear’s backing musicians – the Surreal Banditos – provide the song with a perfect hillbilly vibe.
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Available August 21
The album is layer after layer of haunting discovery, as Jon Spear branches out from the blues into Americana . . . . The mandolin and pedal steel punctuate the flow perfectly on “Dusty Streets.”
—Melissa Clarke, Americana Highways, August 5, 2019
“The strength of country music lies in its ability to tell a story; the best songs are able to tell a story with just a few chords on the guitar. Spear accomplishes this instantaneously. With the addition of pedal steel by Jay Jessup, ‘Dusty Streets’ is a triple threat of musical ability that proves Spear’s strengths surpass just one genre. If this title track says anything about the EP as a whole, Spear will be continuing to expand his musical horizons long into the future.”
– Madison Obermeyer, Xune Magazine (August 29, 2019)
Jon Spear is what might best be described as a songster, bard, minstrel or storyteller. While he has built quite a name for himself in blues circles, his interests and talents are far more diverse. This album, while short, was one of the best things I’ve heard in quite some time.
– Bill Wilson, Reflections in Blue, August 2019
*** JON SPEAR "Dusty Streets" -- Review by Peter Merrett, Sept. 4, 2019; PBS 106.7FM Melbourne
* Label: Self Release.
* Jon Spear: Vocals, All Instruments trks 1 to 5, Acoustic and Electric guitars, Bass, Baritone, and his Grandfather's Century Old Gibson A-3 Mandolin.
* Jennifer Dodge: Vocals trk 1.
* Jay Jessup: Pedal Steel trk 1.
* Matty Metcalfe: Piano trk 3.
* Dara James: Harmonica trk 3 and Dobro trk 4.
* John Stubblefield: Drums trks 1, 2, 3 & 4.
* Andy Burdetsky: Bass trk 1.
* Surreal Banditos Bluegrass Band trk 6.
*** Track 1. - "Dusty Streets (and Tumbleweed)" Composed by Jon Spear.
This the opening track is a stunning country inspired ballad with Jon Spear and guest singer Jennifer Dodge exquisitely combining their voices in the most alluring of couplings. This truly is a masterpiece that would have easily suited the playlist of the seminal band the Byrds such is the quality of Jon Spear's writing. The orchestration has a sublime feel that is a recognition to the style perfectly. Jay Jessup's pedal steel is ghostly as he weaves his magic throughout the mix with a captivating sound. Regular Jon Spear Band rhythm section alumni Andy Burdetsky on bass and drummer John Stubblefield have produced the most perfect of cadence as this one wistfully floats on gossamer wings. Jon Spear displays his absolute mastery as a musician covering all instruments, especially his grandfather's 100 year old Gibson A-3 Mandolin, other than those mentioned and it is this playing that rounds out what is such a beautiful piece of Americana music. A perfectly stunning introduction to this EP.
*** Track 2. - "Forever Home" Composed by Jon Spear.
This is quite a jaunty quirky track indeed that really shines a light on Jon Spear's ability to take the most unusual of topics and make it into a great song. Who would have thought that pet adoption would make for such a celebration of a song? But it does and it has! He has done it again and his vocals display this joyful playfulness throughout. John Stubblefield holds down the drumming and Spear himself rounds out the rhythm section on bass. Not one to shy away from putting in the complete performance Spear provides the stunning acoustic guitar in this gregarious romp of good time music.
*** Track 3. "Mr. Bankerman" Composed by Jon Spear.
Dara James joins the soiree on harmonica and the Blues is jumpin' with Jon Spear tellin' it like it is. Rollicking bouncy Blues reminiscent of when Blues met R&B with a wildness and the joy of bands meeting little combo's head to head. James certainly has his reed working in overdrive as he wails all over the top and the bottom propelling this one along. Matty Metcalfe morph's into a two fisted tyro on the 88's as he pounds out the keys running just as hard on the black keys as he does on the white ones. Wow wee John Spear picks up a gorgeous hollow body high top guitar and instantly sends us into the stratosphere with the most beautiful of tones, one that can't be beaten. John Stubblefield on drums and Jon Spear on bass have the rhythm section hot to trot and these cats a cookin' on three burners. All the hepcats will be on the dance floor with this one and any juke joint or rent party will be jumpin' long into the night when this one strikes up. Man these cats have it going on and l want me some.
*** Track 4. - "Rollin' On" Composed by Jon Spear.
Powerful Americana inspired country from the pen of Jon Spear certainly has some vinegar in it. Spear himself has a real tenacity about his vocals, an aggressiveness if you like but man there is just so much to like about his tonality and delivery as the phrasing is brilliant. Dara James is back but this time on the dobro and he is simply exquisite weaving his magic like tumble weeds rolling throughout the mix. This surely is a stunning performance from him. Spear's guitar is powerful and the acoustic guitar is a wonderful accompaniment to James's Dobro. I particularly love John Stubblefield's continuous snare work with his drumming and combined with Spear's bass have this rhythm section in a take no prisoners cadence that powers along like a steam train moving on down the line. Another brilliant offering.
*** Track 5. - "Cremation Of Sam McGee" Music by Jon Spear based on a Robert W. Service poem.
Wow what an amazing muse this poem is what being that it is from 1909. True stories of legend and the perfect subject for a traditional folk tale or song. Steeped in folklore here Spear perfectly and expertly encapsulates all that is about the period in time and style required to tell this tale of woe and loss. As with many a great folk song all that is required is a guitar and a story to tell and here we have the perfect combination. Spear has taken us back to the dawn of the last century in emphatic style with the most convincing of performances.
*** Track 6. - "Time Machine Weed" Composed by Jon Spear.
Okay, before we get started pass me the jug as l need a taste. Ahh got on me dancin' shoes and ahh's here for a good time if you get what l mean. Spear has a good ole time with the Surreal Banditos Bluegrass band and it is a good ole hoe down. Raucous rollicking good time, fun time song that will catch the unwary with a smack to the back of the head giving them a big ole belly laugh. The orchestration is perfect and these good ole boys can play. Nothing beats a good time and after this l suppose it comes in many different forms so hey l'm here for a good time Mr. Spear.
Hey l keep trying to flip this one over for side two but it wont go! I have had a wonderful time enjoying the very best of Jon Spear and all of his musical influences. I for one had only really heard him as a consummate Bluesman but here he is a master of Americana in a myriad of it's wonderful styles. Not only is he an incredibly talented Bluesman but his ability to compose and play so many instruments plus sing all of these styles is proof of his genius as a all round performer. Definitely not a one trick pony. As each song played and the differences became apparent l was transfixed by the brilliance of each track, simply sublime as far as l am concerned. Joining Jon was fellow John Spear Band members Dara James on harmonica and Dobro, John Stubblefield on drums, Andy Burdetsky on bass to again display their ability to combine to produce the finest of quality music. The addition of vocalist Jennifer Dodge was genius as she is certainly one amazing singer, Matty Metcalfe on piano and the very quirky but mesmerizing Surreal Banditos Bluegrass band made for such an experience that will stay with me such was the impact it had on my being. The value in each and every song is immeasurable and when you have that the music transcends styles and fads that abound today. For and EP this certainly offers so much more and l can't recommend it enough. There is so much on offer for anybody who loves Roots music.
Jon Spear is a Central Virginia musician and songwriter who performs regularly with both the Jon Spear Band and Old Soul (a duo of Jon and Dara James), as well as a solo artist. His latest project is his debut solo EP featuring six original songs in the Americana style, with a release date of August 21, 2019.
Spear’s journey to musical maturity started in the early 1950s singing in his church choir and sharing evenings with his family around an old tube radio listening to big band music and radio serials. That was soon followed by rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll, doo-wop, blues and R&B. Spear got his first guitar when he was 11 and had the thrill of a young boy’s life when his precocious high school band opened for the Isley Brothers at Port Chester NY’s famed Capitol Theatre back when “Twist & Shout” was a nationwide hit.
During the social upheaval of the 1960s, Spear pursued his talent for songwriting as he discovered the power of music to foment change and address important social issues. He later studied classical guitar which helped him perfect his gift for fingerpicking in the Piedmont blues style. If you also take into account Spear’s long successful career in government and public affairs, you’ll understand why it is difficult to pigeonhole his lyrics and writing style.