Sunday, March 15, 2015

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Jeff Strahan | Monkey Around

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the November 29, 2013 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Jeff Strahan – Monkey Around

Self-release through Squaw Peaks Records

10 tracks / 42:58

I know a lot of folks that dream of becoming full-time musicians, but making the step from an established career to the stage is an almost insurmountable hurdle. Jeff Strahan did just that, giving up his day job as a trial lawyer and immersing himself in the wonderful world of Texas blues rock. And after listening to his ninth record, Monkey Around, you will find that he is dead serious about his craft and that his love of music led him in the right direction. Strahan is a journeyman singer and keyboard player and fabulous guitarist from the high plains of Texas, and he brings all of these talents to the studio, which in this case is somewhere outside of Austin. Jimmy Hartman joins him on this project on bass and backing vocals, and Chris Compton on drums and backing vocals. Jeff produced this disc and wrote nine of the ten tracks, with the other track being penned by his friend and fellow guitarist, the late Lil’ Dave Thompson.

“Don’t Get Too Low” kicks off Monkey Around with crunchy rock guitar chords layered with Hammond B-3 and piano. This is not hard music to enjoy as Jeff has a pleasant voice that does not need to be driven into screaming to get his point across. For a guitarist he does not mind digging into the keyboards, and he tears off a neat piano break before jumping into the first guitar solo of the album, which is quite a corker. This is Texas-style rock, so there are no taboos about cutting 6-minute tracks with plenty of guitar! If you like the sound of this one, “Can’t Change Me” and “Monkey Around” are also killer rock tracks that you should not miss.

Beside his musicianship, Strahan should also get kudos for his role as producer for Monkey Around as it is a nice piece of work. It is well recorded and mixed, and though the tracks are quite varied they are in a logical sequence and work well together. Many self-produced albums that I come across are not quite up to snuff in the sound department and do not flow well; those other guys could go to school on this disc.

Anyway, slow blues is another one of Strahan’s specialties, and “Curtains” is about as good as it gets. Jeff gets a wonderful tone out of his Strat on the intro over the tight backline of Compton and Hartman. The lyrics are full of regret and are cleverly crafted into the classic blues structure. He has more blues on tap -- “Dangerous Curves” is some fine Texas blues with a walking bass line (and a little organ on top), and “Two Shades” uses electric piano, heavy high hat and fat bass to create that funky 1970s vibe.

Jeff uses his good sense of humor as he addresses the traditional Rhythm and Blues theme of substances that people enjoy using and abusing. In “4:20” he uses a zydeco beat that segues into Texas rock as he sings about folks that need to chill out a bit, and it turns out that he has just the solution for them. It’s a shame that this song does not have a run time of 4:20, though! “Baptist Bootleggers” is the sad story of growing up in a dry town where a little liquid refreshment is needed. It turns out that there is always a solution if you look hard enough, and Strahan uses the lyrics to paint a vivid picture of the best place in town.

Rounding out the different styles of music on this album is “The One,” a piano-accompanied ballad that Jeff dedicated to his mother, Lillian, who passed on last year. The heartfelt lyrics and Jeff’s honest voice stand on their own, and this track is a well-placed break midway through the disc.

Monkey Around is certainly a good showcase of Jeff Strahan’s many talents, but it is also a really good album with not a bad track to be found. If you like blues/rock/folk music, do yourself a favor and give it a listen!


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