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Jason King Band - Blue Skies & Black Shoes

Hip-Rox Music

11 songs; 45:40 minutes; Splendid

Styles: Contemporary Blues

Similar to the NCAA Basketball Tournaments, imagine a Big Blues Playoff. With 65 bands vying for the championship, all the brackets will be seeded from four number one rankings on down to number sixteens. Bands, like the basketball teams, are seeded based on insider politics, hype and publicity, and playing schedules.

The referees (er, judges) will be blindfolded with no knowledge of to whom they are listening. Winners will be selected based strictly on the music the judges hear – nothing else.

Now, beyond all the polls from media and coaches, when it comes time for the game/ performance, what is the real difference between a number nine seed and a number one seed, for example? The answer is often, “not much.” In the men’s tournament, we yearly see “upsets” of the “majors.” This year, number nine Northern Iowa University upset number one Kansas. At any given game, any team can dribble, guard, and shoot better and beat another team.

Honestly, isn’t the music scene similar? At the performance level, all bands, pick guitar stings, beat drums, sing lyrics, and put their pants on one-leg-at-a-time. On any given night, one band might better impress listeners regardless of their ranking. Beyond all the “seeding” of Blues bands by agencies based on longevity, insider politics, hype and publicity, and playing schedules, when the music is played, the differences may be miniscule.

Given their newer status, Reno, Nevada’s Jason King Band might enter the playoffs with a number twelve seed. Born in 1973, Jason King Roxas (full name) is still under 40, and the earliest version of the Jason King Band was formed in the late 1990s. Backed by the core talents of Tommy Stiles (guitar, lap steel, pedal steel), Wilbert Banks (Bass), Michael Moore (drums), and studio guests, King has issued a solid debut release with eleven original songs.

At the “tip-off,” King reveals two added guest members to his studio team, crack drummer Pat Dotson, locking with Banks’ bass, and harmonicist Freddie Mills. King’s band scores first when Mills on harp excites listeners with the beginning sharp notes of this mid tempo swinging shuffle, “Steppin’ Out.” King and Mills trade some nice mid song solos, and King displays competent vocals that prevail through the entire set.

Another guest off-the-bench, Rick Metz, provides valuable assistance on rough-cast saxophone on “I’m Your Man” a stop-time, upbeat number. In the macho dripping lyrics, King brags to be the best lover - that’ll have’em crying, “More, more, more!” His impressive, rapid guitar picking punctuates the message.

All the songs run around four minutes or less except “Cryin’ Shame,” a slow minor Blues running just over seven. Here King lulls opponents to sleep by allowing keyboardist Jason Stanton to work piano magic just under his fluid, crying lead guitar lines mixed with wearied vocals.

To start the second half, on song six, “Broken,” King switches gears by going acoustic on a Folk and Country rooted ballad. With Stiles adding deft slide work, King sings the most moving vocals on the CD, “... she might be bruised, but she ain’t broken.”

The title track affords King the opportunity to clearly reveal early influences of the Allman Brothers (“Ramblin’ Man”) with some Hendrix thrown into the mix.

Demonstrating exuberant fun in performing, King and band pump up a Blues shuffle in “My Little Baby.” You can practically “hear” King smile as he trades licks with Mills on harp.

Having clinched the victory in the opening round against the number five seeded, nonchalant and overconfident Bigg Name Dude Band, King takes a slow acoustic turn on “6 Years Gone” to close the net-cutting set.

The Jason King Band has a winning eclectic mix of sounds that showcase the band’s talent and musical range. Who knows, with all they’ve got, they just might win the Blues championship!

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL

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