If it’s as they suggest with the title of their new album, Acid Blues is the White Man’s Burden, then all our cracker asses owe Kansas City’s JPT Scare Band a thank you card, because they’re definitely carrying more than their share of the weight. The release, available now through Ripple Music, compiles tracks from throughout the band’s multi-decade career, resulting in a record that doesn’t quite flow like an album per se, but manages to engage with its individual songs nonetheless.
For those unfamiliar, the story of JPT Scare Band goes that the band — drummer Jeff Littrell, bassist Paul Grigsby and guitarist Terry Swope — formed in the early ‘70s (and they’ve got the archival footage to prove it) but didn’t release an album until 1994’s Acid Acetate Excursion. Since then they’ve been steadily uncovering old recordings and adding new material to them, at once celebrating what they were and what they are in a way few bands can actually pull off convincingly. Their last outing was the righteously guitar-led RumDum Daddy, and with Acid Blues is the White Man’s Burden, the trio once again honor their ‘70s rock lineage while also showing off their current sound. Fortunately for all of us (crackers and not), the one is not so far removed from the other.
Acid Blues is the White Man’s Burden begins with “Long Day” and “Not My Fault,” a catchy pair of straightforward jams. One of the typifying elements of JPT Scare Band’s sound is Terry Swope’s extensive soloing, but it’s clear on these more recent cuts that the focus is on songwriting. Toward the end of the album, with the more heavy acid material from the ‘70s like the title track and closer “Amy’s Blue Day,” they let more of their jam tendencies show, leaving what’s between to hold the balance. I don’t know the exact dates of when all seven songs were recorded – though with “Death Letter 2001,” I’m willing to hazard a guess as to the year — but the general progression seems to be backwards in time, which is as it should be, informing the listeners as to what the band can do now before what they’ve already done. It wouldn’t work the other way around.
On material both new and old, Littrell, Grigsby and Swope show remarkable chemistry in their playing. “Not My Fault” flows easily even with some awkwardness in its background vocal arrangement, and as we begin our journey through their basement tapes with the 10-minute Acid Blues is the White Man’s Burden centerpiece “Stone House Blues,” it becomes clear that the three players have clearly made the most of each other’s abilities lo these many years. Swope’s leads are not to be understated. Although Grigsby and Littrell are more than capable of keeping up with him and making his playing all the stronger with their own, the soul in what he does is so up front it’ll bring a tear to your eye. Nonetheless, as they transition back into more recent material with “I’ve Been Waiting” before diving full-on into the ‘70s closing duo of the title track and “Amy’s Blue Day,” Grigsby’s bass is as much the highlight as Swope’s quick fingers. Let’s just say everyone’s initials made it into the band name JPT Scare Band for a reason.
While I’m still not sure how I feel about the assertion its title (Jimi Hendrix might have something to say about it), Acid Blues is the White Man’s Burden is without question one of the most natural sounding and charismatic records I’ve heard this year. JPT Scare Band even now are able to harness what made heavy ‘70s rock so influential without sounding like they’re ripping anyone off, including themselves, and present it in such a way that really takes you there rather than just tells you what it was like if you missed it. Yeah, it’s cool to have the rawer sounding “Amy’s Blue Day” on the record, but if you’re not moved by the way these three players work together in the jammed-out last minutes of “I’ve Been Waiting,” you’re just not getting the point. Acid Blues is the White Man’s Burden might be a sleeper, but for those who discover it, it’s treasure.
Tags: JPT Scare Band, Kansas City, Ripple Music