This CD review was originally published in the December 6, 2012 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at thebluesblast.com
Jimmy Herring – Subject to Change Without Notice
Abstract Logix Records
10 tracks / 59:54
Whenever I get a new album, I always try to figure out what genre the music fits into and often times find that iTunes does not agree with my gut feeling on the matter. Subject to Change Without Notice from Jimmy Herring defies my attempts to categorize it, as there are no two songs that fall into the same genre. And this is cool with me, because a CD with ten songs that all sound the same would be pretty darned dull. By the way, iTunes says this collection is “Dance & House” music, which is not even close in my book.
North Carolinian Jimmy Herring has led a wonderful life as a guitarist, having studied at the two best guitar schools in the United States: the Guitar Institute of Technology and the Berklee College of Music. Plus he has played all kinds of music with some of the best musicians around, including Phil Lesh, Derek Trucks, John Popper, the Allmann Brothers and members of the Grateful Dead. But most currently, he is the lead guitarist for Widespread Panic, which has to be the most underappreciated southern rock band on the planet. Flipping though his discography I found that he has appeared on over twenty albums for various bands and artists, and all of them are quality projects.
Subject to Change Without Notice is Jimmy Herring’s second solo release, following up on 2008’s Lifeboat. He plays guitars on this album and is joined by musicians Neal Fountain and Etienne M’Bappe on bass, Jeff Sipe on drums and Matt Slocum on various keyboard instruments. Jimmy wrote seven of the ten tracks, and the remaining tunes are respectful covers of songs from The Beatles, Jimmy McGriff and John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra. Studio legend John Keane took care of the production chores, and contributed some sweet pedal steel as well.
Jimmy Herring is a guitarist, so it is no surprise that this is a guitar-centric album, and his fans will note that this disc strays further afield than his previous release, which was more of a jazz fusion effort. “Red Wing Special” starts things off with a bang as Nicky Sanders plays a mean gypsy fiddle while Herring shows off his nifty picking skills. The speedy bass and boppy drums complete this very complex 5-minute package, and prove once again that in the music world it is entirely possible to have the total equal more than the sum of the individual parts. This stuff just works thanks to the superlative musical skills of all of the participants. By the way, this tune is an instrumental (as is the rest of the album) so you will need to be inspired by the music, not the words.
The slow rock jam “Kaleidoscope Carousel” is up next and we get to hear Jimmy’s slide and rhythm talents, which are bundled together over the very pretty keyboard layers. Then on “Aberdeen” we get to hear Herring play truly smooth guitar solos in a waltz tempo. His guitar takes the place of the human voice in this song, and makes the mood while B3 master Ike Stubblefield lays down some serious gospel organ on this track. Ike also pitches in on Jimmy McGriff’s “Miss Poopie,” which has a marvelous groove.
Carter Herring (Jimmy’s son) lends his cello to the mix on a faithful re-do of George Harrison’s “Within You Without You” and John McLaughlin’s ethereal song “Hope.” His instrument is an unexpected voice that works well in conjunction with his dad’s guitar. Bill Evans provides a tasteful jazz tenor saxophone break on “Hope,” a song that has held up well since it was originally recorded back in the 1970s.
My favorite track on Subject to Change Without Notice is “Curfew,” which features the most popular banjo player on the planet, Bela Fleck. This song has really fancy country picking that would do Albert Lee or Chet Atkins proud. The drums and bass back off to more simple lines, allowing Jimmy and Bela the opportunity to shine as they play in perfect sync and then riff off of each other. The upbeat mood of this tune carries over into the finale, “Bilgewater Blues.” Matt Slocum brings the funk out on this one with his mighty keyboard skills, and Jimmy lets loose one last time with his mighty guitar chops.
With its wide range of genres there is a little something for everybody on Subject to Change Without Notice, and you do not have to be a guitar aficionado to appreciate the great collection of music on this disc. Be sure to check out this release and Jimmy Herring’s other work, as he is a real American treasure.