(3 / 5)
From the soulful opener “Swinging In The Sweet Sunshine” – which features some lovely Junior Walker style sax’ from Brian Gephart, and Jan’s vocal reminiscent of Maria Muldaur – to the last cut, “Always The Blues” – featuring wah-wah guitar and bluesy harmonica – this 50+ minute, 13-track album delivers consistent spirit and energy from this established Michigan-born singer.
Follow-up to Jan’s 2020 release “Justify”, this set of songs again recorded and written with partner Craig Calvert, who plays guitar and bass here.
Jan James honed her vocals in a church choir, and learned guitar licks from a Tennessean named Catfish. She made her way from a family-run fishing resort in central Michigan to downtown Chicago. Her creative partnership with Craig Calvert spans more than three decades; which incudes extensive exploration of roots music of all kinds: rock n’ roll, soul, country and the blues.
In addition to recording with Jim Peterik (Survivor) and Jim Dickinson, Jan and Craig secured a publishing deal with MCA. They became favourites in such venues as Buddy Guy’s Blues Legends and The House of Blues, performed at Grammy events and dozens of the city’s famed street festivals, and shared the stage with Koko Taylor, John Mayall, Little Feat, and James Brown.
For the Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary celebration, they were billed with Jeff Beck and BB King. Jan was asked to sing backup for Bruce Willis at the grand opening of the Planet Hollywood, and played Janis Joplin in the stage play, “Love, Janis.”
Jan and Craig’s first album, “Last Train”, was picked up by the Dutch label Provogue, which laid the foundation for Jan’s ongoing European fan base. Twelve records followed through the years.
“Time Bomb” is mainly up-tempo, feel-good stuff, the perfect soundtrack to a boozy Saturday night knees up at the local roadhouse/music club, but she proves her worth as a versatile vocalist on the slower, quieter cuts such as “Too Late Now” and “Let Love Surround You”.
Neat blues track, “Don’t Lie To The One You Love”, features some nice Hammond licks from Bob Long. Craig Calvert’s guitar skills come to the fore on “Diamonds and Gold”.
By Christopher Weston
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’