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JD & the Straight Shot

Ballyhoo! – 2016 (Self-released)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by JD & the Straight Shot

Even though the "JD" in this group's name stands for Cablevision CEO James Dolan, there is little to indicate his corporate position in the music. Dolan has been making music and releasing blues-based albums since 2005, so this is no one-off vanity project, either.

The Straight Shot, Dolan's backing band that includes studio and touring pros with credits all over the country/blues/Americana map (guitarist/vocalist Marc Copely, bassist Byron House and guitarist J.J. Appleton along with violinist Erin Slaver) is a no-frills outfit, more co-conspirators than a group of hired guns. Adept at slinky blues grooves such as "Better Find a Church" as well as a surprisingly faithful rendition of Spirit's "Nature's Way," they support the songs as one unit like a good band should.

This time around the songs are all done in an acoustic format, making this more of a roots/Americana album than a straight blues record and allowing more of Dolan's songwriting to shine on gentle ballads such as "I'll See You Again."

Dolan is a serviceable vocalist in the wheelhouse of a William Topley, Delbert McClinton or John Shain, but his baritone growl fits the tunes here like the weary roadhouse bluesman he may have originally set out to become before corporate America intervened. It is the musical framework around Dolan that really shines in this acoustic setting, however; Slaver especially stands out as a powerful melodic force in songs such as the title track. Knowing Dolan's 'day job' inevitably colors how one perceives his band's music, but it shouldn't. These songs are good enough to stand up to comparison with the average Americana/blues album by your favorites in the genre, and the band alone is reason enough to spin these tunes for more than the curiosity factor.