Shoreworld: Jefferson Grizzard, Old No. 7 and Marc Muller
—by John Pfeiffer, April 13, 2012
Jefferson Grizzard – Back Porch Syndicate Meets The Asbury Park Mafia
I always get a kick out of the fact that the musical nation wants to come to New Jersey. I mean, I always want to go to their state and experience what they have to offer, and they want to experience the wondrous joy that we sprinkle down upon our mystic Shoreworld masses. The wonderful world of “The grass is always greener on the other side” rolls on and on for all of us. Nevertheless, it is flattering to know that folks list us as a destination and friend to the fan and working musician on the road to success.
Jefferson Grizzard is an artist that is testing that proverbial fence. Grizzard is a small town Georgia boy turned Nashville troubadour on his way to his own musical destiny, and he is stopping off in Asbury Park for a heapin’ helpin’ of our East Coast hospitality.
Grizzard is also out in support of his new record titled A Crack In The Door. The record is an insightful look into Jefferson’s upbringing and continued oddesy of hard living and guitar exorcism that he is now performing across the country. He calls his musical style Americana, and while that label is getting a lot of use these days, Grizzard plays close to the vest with that descriptive style.
He is not just another pretty boy soprano, and earns his jagged melody through tough insight. With a vocal style that lies somewhere between Dylan and Randy Newman, Jefferson Grizzard gets right to the point, releasing his story telling passion like a truck load of gravel being dumped in the backyard. In addition, while I can see the Neil Young inflections, I feel that Jefferson Grizzard also possesses the rock and roll phrasing of Billy Corgan, the spoken style of Kris Kristofferson, and all the raw emotion of Bon Scott. It is not pretty in the typical way of a pop artist, but he is far from anything typical, and that is what counts in my book.
Ben McRee (Back Porch Syndicate) produced A Crack In The Door and that has resulted in several great songs in the 11 offerings. Tracks such as “Since You Came Around,” a greasy, road weary rock and blues number featuring the amazing organ work of Nashville legend Dennis Wage (Faith Hill, David Allen Coe, Delbert McClinton) and drummer Mike Caputy (T. Graham Brown, David Lee Murphy, Johnny Neel, John Rich, Marty Stuart, and Rick James). These two, along with a bevy of other fine players, put the pedal to the metal on this upbeat hillbilly stomper.
“Burned Out Sun” steers close to Neil Young/Tom Petty territory with its melodic similarities and tempo, but Grizzard and crew manage to stay over in their own lane, fleshing it out with layers of shimmering organ, acoustic guitar and slide work (courtesy of Tim Hamilton) that keep this traditional tribute fresh. I love the distorted, dirty slide growl that overshoots the end of the tune like some junkyard dog growling at a tire thief.
“Alaska” glides in, dynamic smooth and acoustic quiet, as Grizzard waxes poetic on the land of the snow. The Kris Kristofferson vibe is strong here with its insightful melody and instrumentation choices. The pedal steel work of Hamilton is back to sway the direction of this stark and solemn journey through missed opportunities and faded love. Grizzard has a demonstrated talent at crossover appeal, and “Alaska” is a fine example of country meets old school soft rock. The able assist of Angela McRee on backing vocals adds a fine touch to an understated gem.
Jefferson Grizzard and band will be rolling into Asbury Park on April 15 for an appearance at The Saint. Another interesting item is that a couple of our own artists will be joining his band for this show. Singer/songwriter Matt Wade takes the piano spot along with pedal steel kingpin Marc Muller (Shania Twain, Bruce Springsteen). Adding these two Asbury Park Mafia players to the Back Porch Syndicate is the first official meeting of the bosses, and it is likely not to be the last.
Moreover, while a couple of the tunes on A Crack In The Door might fall into standard fare, the major portion of the disc should have Jefferson Grizzard conquering several different charts, including country, rock and American Outlaw. For more information on Jefferson Grizzard or this Smoky Mountain show, head over to jeffersongrizzard.com and thesaintnj.com