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March 17, 2006

CD Review Canadian Blues Johhny Max Band

Written by
cindy mcleod

CD Release / Blues
Johnny Max Band
Ride and Roll
Poor Soul Records / 2005

The Johnny Max Band hit the nail on the head with their 2005 release ”Ride and Roll”, one fired up straight-to-the-top boogie blues CD. Thirteen tunes packed into one near-hour of groove, these tracks are laid down by some of the best in blues.

A gumbo of traditional Chicago blues, classic R&B, and soul, delivered with a raw yet keenly polished sound, Ride and Roll is expertly produced from a live off-the-floor studio session.

Singer and bandleader Max injects an explosion of energy into the ensemble, with Kevin Higgins (guitar), Uli Bohnet (bass), Duncan McBain (drums) Martin Aucoin (keyboards), and Alec Fraser (vocal) creating the powerhouse, unified backup. The six-piece band kicks out rock solid feels, afinely tuned sound, and beefy vocals, with Max’s enigmatic voice the catalyst. The sign of great musicianship, the Johnny Max Band makes a big statement in simple, clear tones… the message is the medium.

Feels range from the southern swamp boogie shuffle and grunge guitar of “Brown’s Line”, to the swing blues ballad “Angel of Mercy” with its electrifying Hammond intro and great interplay between vocalist Max and guitarist Higgins. “Walkin’ in Jerusalem” offers a soulful slide guitar and moving vocal accompanied by foot stomps, handclaps, and great backup vocals to enliven this traditional spiritual. The group injects a little humour into their music, bringing light to their mix with “Mad at Me”, a drivin’ boogie-blues, and groove with a capital G to their “I Like Women”. “Junko Partner” funkifies with its killer feel laid down from the outset by drummer Duncan McBain, who opens the tune, and thickens to a juicy stew with Bohnet’s bass, who turns in a fine performance throughout.

Ride and Roll promises just that, an exhilarating rush of great music… recommended.

Cindy McLeod

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