Artist: JD & The Straight Shot
Label: Self Released
Release Date: 01/15/2016
We in the New York area know Jim Dolan as a rock n’ roller. We also know Dolan, a.k.a. JD, as President and CEO of Cablevision Systems and Executive Chairman of Madison Square Garden. Suffice it to say, the man has plenty of interests and projects. This all-acoustic effort from him and his band, the Straight Shot, comes as a pleasant surprise. Producer Chuck Ainlay helmed sessions in Nashville and New York, merging elements of the blues, folk, roots and even tinges of Celtic music into an album that balances serious and light-hearted subjects. The only cover is a well-rendered version of Spirit’s 1970 “Nature’s Way.” The originals were penned mostly by Dolan, guitarist Marc Copely, bassist Byron House, fiddler Erin Slaver and guitarist Adan Dolan. The music comes off smoothly and delicately, due mostly to the lilting quality of Slaver’s fiddle and the absence of drums. Dolan says, “We’ve always approached writing songs acoustically, so it made sense to go in that direction. They just sound right this way.”
The album begins with a bluesy riff to “Empty,” followed by a swampy, catchy shuffle in “Better Find a Church,” and then unfolds the Trayvon Martin murder in Ferguson, MO in “Under That Hood.” Other notable tunes are “Here He Comes,” an homage to Johnny Cash, “Glide,” which exemplifies childhood enthusiasm and “Perdition,” which mixes some nice choruses with Slaver’s fiddling.
Lead vocalist Dolan doesn’t have a truly distinctive voice, but sings emotively and is often balanced nicely by harmonies and dual vocals from Slayer and his other band mates, all of whom sing. The album works well because the songs are well constructed, and there’s a real togetherness in the playing and singing. Some of the melodies do linger in your head, drawing you back for repeated listens.
The band will be opening for Jewel’s Picking Up the Pieces tour, which began on March 4th. They will appear at Sands, Bethlehem, PA on April 15th and at The Borgata in Atlantic City, NJ on the 16th.
– Jim Hynes