Album Reviews

Jon Cleary

GoGo Juice

Artist:     Jon Cleary

Album:     GoGo Juice

Label:     FHQ Records

Release Date:     08/14/2015


Jon Cleary won a career-first Grammy Award for his album GoGo Juice in the best regional roots category. And boy, does he deserve it. The regional roots he won for are those he found in his adopted city New Orleans. Jon Cleary came to New Orleans from England for the music. His Grammy for GoGo Juice is proof positive that the guy from the UK can sure play that New Orleans Funk.

In his solo concerts, Cleary likes to play the old New Orleans R&B songs that are in danger of being forgotten to keep the sound of the singer/piano player of that genre fresh and alive. But on his records he likes to mix things up, highlighting the diversity of his talent and style. He incorporates influences such as ’70s soul, gospel, afro-caribbean and afro-cuban rhythms and lays them upon his traditional New Orleans piano playing foundation.

His Grammy Award winning album is the prime example of not only his diversity, but also his talent as a songwriter to create that mix of tradition and his other influences giving us GoGo Juice. One of my favorites is “Bone Yard,” a great song in the tradition of second line marches. Marching on with life. “Beg Steal or Borrow” has a definite soul feel to it no doubt. But I can still feel Cleary prompting the audience at the Maple Leaf Bar to sing along. It’s soulful, but it is all his soul. The title song “GoGo Juice” is totally rooted in tradition, but oh so original. That brings me to “Pump It Up.” This is usually the song Cleary uses to close his concerts. He and his band do what the song title suggests.

If you have a desire to go back to, or visit New Orleans for the first time, this is a great piece of music to take you there. There is a lot of great music in the Crescent City, and Jon Cleary’s stands with the best of them.

-Mark J. Smith

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