Artist: Jason Vivone & The Billy Bats
Album: The Avenue
Label: Self Released
Release Date: 02/20/2016
Another contender at this year’s International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Jason Vivone & the Billy Bats were there to fly the flag for their home-town of Kansas City. The title is taken from a former Mafiosa retirement street in the burg, where Vivone himself pitched up and bought a house back in the ’90s. This eight-track release reflects life and love, despair and hope in equal measures as lived on the Avenue over the years, and features a full-blown seven-piece outfit with a soaring sense of humor and an astute eye on the world around them.
Most tracks are written by Vivone himself, and his slide-guitar work hints at more than a passing nod to the fretwork of former Kansas City resident picker Casey Bill Weldon. Vivone wields his beloved cigar-box guitar with style and clear class here, supported by some neatly pitched electric banjo – an otherwise troubling thought, perhaps – from Ben Hoppes. The remainder of the band comprises Matt Bustamante on percussion, drums and backing vocals; Paula Crawford on backing vocals, percussion and guitar; Rick MacIvor again backing vocals, and keyboards, piano and organ; Jeremy Clark on bass, and Joanna Berkebile on percussion and vocals. This is a mighty fine album, a tad quirky in places and at turns, but an overall charmer worth discovering.