By Martine Ehrenclou
The Bogart Jones Band, from Central Illinois, is the first out of about 30 music submissions to be featured by Rock and Blues Muse. With a blend of rock and soul, blues and southern funk, this band caught our attention immediately.
After hearing the first song on their new album, 14th & Willow, I grabbed my headphones to listen to the nuances of this talented, musical, and oh-so-tight band. From their soulful blues-rock vocals, catchy rhythms and slamming slide guitar riffs, The Bogart Jones Band is the band to watch in 2017.
Wes Simmons, lead vocalist and bassist, heads the group along with guitarist and producer, Ryan Rose, and drummer, Tim Fiers. Simmons writes the lyrics and the band collaborates on the music. You can hear it in their sound. It’s about the band as a unit, not just about a great guitar player, a great vocalist, a jam-packed drummer, or a keyboard player with tasty chops, which The Bogart Jones Band definitely has. With Don Mabus also on guitar and vocals, Curt Caudill on keys and vocals, and Ty Bailey on percussion, this band has a sound all their own.
This is fun music with heart. With funky grooves, excellent musicianship, and lyrics that smack of authenticity, The Bogart Jones Band produces feel-good music while still telling meaningful stories with their songs. They coin their music as, “New music with old soul.”
There are a couple of surprises with The Bogart Jones Band. They’ve only been playing together for a couple of years, something you might not expect when listening to tracks such as, “Shuffle On,” or “Get Back There.” In addition, Ryan Rose did all the production in his home studio. I wouldn’t have guessed that when listening to the almost seamless production of their album. What might account for some of the professional quality is that Simmons and Rose have been working together for years in various bands and also collaborated with legendary REO Speedwagon guitarist, Gary Richrath, until his untimely passing. But it’s probably more than that—perhaps a true commitment to the music.
The opening track, “Hello the Highway” might be my favorite on the album. Kicking off with slick guitar licks and slide guitar, it sheds hints of Little Feat, Lynyrd Skynyrd or maybe The Doobie Brothers—but with a contemporary twist. Simmons’ vocals are soulful; he digs deep on the tunes that call for it, and there is a definite richness to his tone.
“Slightly Burnt” is a hard driving ballad sure to please any classic rock fan. It tells the story of running into an old friend after a ten-year absence and questioning life’s purpose.
“I get a little burned out
On the tired hippy token
I’m not really growing old
I’m just slightly burnt, still smoking
I seem to loose the days some times, you know
And I can’t explain it
Mid life, Christ, I don’t believe it.
Content to while the time my friend
Finding meanings to the end
And yet to find the reason I’m still here.”
Speaking of smoking, the guitar solo on this song just rips.
“Get Back” is another catchy, fun track, one you might listen to with a car full of friends, heads nodding to the beat. This is a feel-good, party tune that opens with that ear-catching slide guitar and then glides into a danceable beat. The drumming is tight and precise with a lot of kick.
I have to mention the band’s harmonies, which grace a number of their tunes. Because their harmonies are so in sync, I watched a couple of their live performances to see if they matched the album. They sure did–on key and in unison.
In the beginning of 2016, The Bogart Jones Band opened for Legendary Southern Rockers, 38 Special and won the “Road to Summer Camp” competition and earned main stage performance at Summer Camp 2016. Tack that on to performing at other big festivals headlined by Willie Nelson and Kid Rock, Molly Hatchet, Vince Neil (Motly Crue) and opening for Los Lobos, Samantha Fish, and Blues Traveler.
With the exception of the last track on 14th & Willow, I love all of their songs. “My Angel the Devil and Me” doesn’t seem up to par with the rest of their tunes, as its change in tempo didn’t quite work for me. It’s much more country than the others and I’ll admit I’m not a true country music fan. But let’s be honest, eleven out of twelve great tunes on any album is impressive, especially for a relatively new band that’s hitting its stride.
Expect to hear a lot more from The Bogart Jones Band. They are clearly on their way.
For more information on The Bogart Jones Band and their album, 14th & Willow:
Tour Schedule: https://www.thebogartjonesband.com/shows