The Blind Dead McJones band have a sense of humor. It’s important to understand this when you dive into their music. It’s a surreal and slightly deranged sense of humor, but it informs all that the band do, musically, lyrically and even the liner notes. The whole enterprise is wrapped up in the mythical story of an absentee band leader, Mr McJones himself, who rarely, if ever turns up for a gig, and sends instructions from wherever he’s currently holed up. It could be said that this is somewhat of a concept album, but the majority of those are wrapped up in a fog of self importance, something that this record lacks.
It opens up in fine old style, with a swagger that continues throughout the piece. The opener also sets the mood for the eclectic and original arrangements that make up the albums musical personality, with a jungle drum rhythm and dark distorted guitar working well with gritty vocals and a thumping middy bass tone. Things could definitely be called original, like a raw Tom Waits crossbred with George Thoghrogood in a Cream-like power trio, the sound is definitely atypical of the current crop of British blues bands and the songs are as individual as the music. It’s all achieved without the appearance of trying too hard too, the record’s raw, live feel suits the material, giving it all an edge of chaos while enhancing the tight dynamic feel of a band that work well together live.
This isn’t going to be a record that does much for the real blues purists out there, sharing, as it does, more with Cream or Jimi Hendrix than with Muddy or the Wolf, though the influence of the early masters is definitely present, just as it was in the music of the 60’s innovators. From the first songs lyrical exhortations that the legendary Mr McJones is bigger, better, stronger, more than anyone’s parallels with Who Do You Love to deals with the devil over a used up soul, this is a band that know where they come from musically. They also understand that they are in the now, and aren’t stuck in a past, imagined, Shangri-La. After all, it’s not many a blues band that will name check MC Hammer in a song.
It’s not a perfect record, but it is very good, stunning high points like Elephant on a Lead easily outweigh the production that can favor the bass a little too much or the occasional moments where the vocals could do with more polish. It’s a good thing to hear a British band trying something out of the ordinary, especially on a debut, and the passion and fire with which it is delivered are incendiary. I’d recommend that anyone looking for a little something outside of by the book blues rock but still not utterly traditional blues gets their hands on a copy. I’m certain that Blind Dead McJones would agree with me too, wherever he is.