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Orphan Jon and the Abandoned
Over the Pain
Vintage LaNell Records

It just doesn’t seem like it’s been four years and for months since I reviewed Orphan Jon’s debut release, Abandoned No More. I guess time really does fly. Maybe it’s because of the fact that since then, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him perform at several Galaxie Agency Showcases in Memphis. In any event, a lot has changed during those years.

For his freshman release – Over the Pain – Jon now has his own record label, Vintage LaNell; a new publicist, The Galaxie Agency; a new producer, Alastair Greene – whose musical footprints are all over this recording; and with the exception of one special guest (Mike Malone), a whole new band. Those joining extraordinary vocalist Jon English include: Alastair Green on guitar and backing vocals; Ray Sadolsky on bass; and Jason Blakely on drums; with special guests: Michael Leasure on drums and backing vocals; Mike Malone on piano and backing vocals; and Rebecca Aguilar on vocals. Of the disc’s twelve tracks, eleven are (Orphan) Jon English originals.

Knowing Orphan Jon like I do, while listening to the opening track – “Tight Dress”, I kind of thought it was about his wife. Sure enough, later on I read this on the one sheet: “Like many of my songs dealing with attractions, relationships and love, I wrote it about my wife Stella. She has this beautiful walk and it gets me every time she wears a dress”…..especially when their tight, right Jon? Appropriately, like Stella’s rockin’ that dress, the guys are rockin’ this song. Musically, Alastair’s guitar is fanning the fiery rhythm Ray and Jason are pounding out on the bass and drums and Jon, all because of Stella, is a “hot mess” on the vocals.

Should you not know this, the word “Orphan” before his name, and the word “Abandoned” in the band’s name, are synonymous with Jon’s childhood. That said, the title track is a testament to as to how he got “Over the Pain”. It’s a sensitive and moving ballad that tells of pain, suffering and the ugliness of loneliness being your only friend. It was the realization that “if it was worth the having, then it was worth the trying. If you don’t get yourself together, all that’s left is dying” that got Jon through it. Lyrically, vocally, musically, emotionally and inspirationally , this is one heck of a powerful anthem. Hands down, this one has all the credentials for a song of the year nod.

Compared to most of the songs he composes, “Broken Angel” is a little more lighthearted. With a bit of a Bayou vibe it’s a tale – and most likely a tall one – about Jon getting hit on in a juke joint. Apparently, he can’t tell if she’s an angel there to save his soul or a sexy devil who loves to take control. Maybe things will get clearer after a few more drinks?

If me saying that this album has Alastair’s footprints all over it needed further comments, this cover of Savoy Brown’s “Going Down to Mobile” (N. Peterson) will make them. Yeah, Jon’s belting the hell out of the lyrics and the rhythm sections causing their usual ruckus but for all intents and purposes, this is a guitar track…..a smokin’, ass kickin’ guitar track at that. From its slow seventy-five second intro featuring precisely picked notes to the next four minutes of crazy chords, bending of (and probably breaking of) strings, and a whole lot of slipping and sliding, this on’e all “Mean” Greene.

Jon’s explanation about this track is that since he had one acoustic song on his debut album, he should make it tradition and have one on this album as well. Interestingly, I remember that other song very well and here is exactly what I had to say about it back then: “When bands contact me asking if I’d be interested in hearing their music for possible review, my reply is very up front concerning the fact that although there can be exceptions, over the top rock blues AND acoustic blues are not in my wheelhouse. Knowing that, you now understand that moving me with an acoustic song takes some doing and “Memories Of Me And You” just moved me”. That said, this one is titled “Redheaded Woman Blues” and this time it’s Jon who is being moved….if you get my drift. Fabulously sassy vocals from Jon; killer acoustic guitar work on what sounds like a Resonator from Alastair; and great percussion from the drums of Michael; all highlight this fun and flirty song.

“There’s No Need” to tell you that spirituality is a prominent characteristic in Orphan Jon’s life, but if you did need to hear it said then give this one a listen. Although I don’t have a collection of Gospel records, I always enjoy the occasional trip to church when an artist includes some of the music on a album I’m listening to. This time however, when Jon took me I did not want to leave. Without exaggeration I replayed this track at least a dozen times. Just this one time I don’t think he will mind me using the term but Reverend Jon has definitely got this preaching thing down pat. WOW! Musically, with its powerful and profound rhythm; gutsy guitar licks; overwhelming organ leads; robust hand claps; and vigorous choir like back up vocals this one is like Mass on a runaway train. (Side note to Jon – think about doing a full album of these…please!)

Other tracks on this outstanding disc include: “She”; “Got No Name”; “Livin’ My Life”; “Somewhere Salvation”; “Everyone Knows”; and “Memories Of me And You”.

To find out more about Orphan Jon and the Abandoned just go to their website – www.orphanjon.com – Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro

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