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Bonefish Johnny: Sings the Blues

James Nadal By

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The blues comes in many shades and modes, and is ingrained into the character of those who follow its calling. South Florida may not come readily to mind when one thinks of the blues, but singer/guitarist Bonefish Johnny (John Stacey) has been playing his brand of sugarcane soul in the regions bars and juke-joints for over thirty years. Sings the Blues is a personal statement, a testament to those who came before, and a confession of paying dues.

This production covers a range of blues in various guises, each with a singular story to tell. The stinging style of Albert Collins is brought back to life on his "Ego Trip," featuring the guitar work of Billy Vazquez, and the enthralling bass of Kilmo Doome. Then it's on to the Joe Tex grabber "I Want To Do (Everything For You), a terrific duet with guitarist David Shelley doubling on vocals. Shelley passed recently so this is a heartfelt homage to an old friend. Little Walter is honored on "Last Night," a perfect rendition with obligatory harmonica by Cadillac Chuck.

One does not go a lifetime in the trenches without coming up with some great originals, and there are some gems presented here. "Issues," is a funky fat back number, with the signature scratchy rhythm guitar that is the Bonefish trademark laying the foundation for crisp leads from Albert Castiglia. The jump boogie piano of Bob Taylor, sets aflame "Millions, Billions, Trillions," a dance floor burner with comical lyrics about the crooks on Wall Street. Taylor switches over to a vintage mod organ sound on the retro "Break Every Mirror," for that flashback groove.

There are also some obscurities aroused from the vaults as "Soul Shake," starring vocalist Nicole Yarling, reviving the Ike and Tina period of prime rhythm and blues. Known for clever rearranging, Bonefish converts the Rose Royce hit "I Wanna Get Next To You," into a grinding ballad, with detailed guitar licks courtesy of Raiford Starke. "Band Doll," is dragged from the swamps and cleaned up with a drenching horn section spotlighted by sax man Jeff Watkins, for a realistic Crescent City vibe. Special mention here for the spot-on drumming of Jeff Renza, who has been with Bonefish for decades, and also produced the record.

Sticking with his retro roots, Bonefish gives a nod to the man who invented soul, Sam Cooke, by covering "Lost and Looking." This interpretation is a stark plea of a man at the end of his hopes, performed solely with a haunting bass line and tapping cymbal. And so ends the show, but not the story. Bonefish Johnny does not pretend to be the standard bearer of the blues or the great white hope. He is simply a man playing the music that inspired him, obligated to maintain its relevance, in his own time.

Track Listing: Ego Trip; I Want To Do (Everything For You); Issues; Soulshake; Last Night; Millions, Billions, Trillions; Break Every Mirror; I Wanna Get Next To You; Band Doll; Lost And Looking.

Personnel: Bonefish Johnny: vocals, rhythm guitar; Jeff Renza: drums, bass; Bob Taylor: keyboards, percussion; Albert Castiglia: lead guitar (3); JP Soars: lead guitar (6); David Shelley: vocals, lead guitar (2); Nicole Yarling: vocals (4); Jack Shawde: sitar guitar, lead guitar (4); Billy Vazquez: lead guitar (1); Kilmo Doome: bass (1); Jeff Watkins: saxophone solo (9); Raiford Starke: lead guitar (8, 9); Cadillac Chuck: harmonica (5); Tom McCormick: saxophone; Doug Michels: trumpet; Jason Pyle: trombone; Jon Rose: horn charts (2, 9).

Title: Sings the Blues | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Self Produced

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