Swathed in soulful brass with tasteful touches of funk, Midnight Dealin‘ starts off with a bang in the track “My Blackened Heart.” The song is a bop, but the lyrics are tinged with longing. This a theme in Midnight Dealin.’ The EP continues with the titular track and the mood doesn’t change too much. Clearly no stranger to unrequited love, heartbreak and loss, Jo James and his band have the rare talent of getting you to tap your foot along to a song that also tugs on your heartstrings.
James’s voice does carry unmistakable soul, yet it has a subtle grit to it as well. This pairs well with the composition of the songs on the EP, especially with the staccato blues guitar bridge on “Midnight Dealin.” Indeed, one of the strengths of the EP is not just the fantastic musicianship that takes place on the album, but how it’s all perfectly balanced and produced. Piano riffs blend effortlessly into guitar breaks; a trumpet plays a pseudo-call and response with James’s vocals on “Want to Be Found”, and strings are plucked along underneath. Sometimes we hear another voice on top of James’ tone, creating a soft but effective harmony.
Fans that eat up top 40s blues and R&B may be thrown for a bit of a loop. James and the crew are clearly consummate talents, and the composition of the songs don’t mirror the typical stuff you hear on the radio. There is a respectful angle in the EP that points towards a sincere appreciation of the genre rather than a broad, for-the-masses approach. Not to say Midnight Dealin‘ isn’t accessible. It’s just the opposite. There is depth to the songs for those that want to dive in, but you’ll still find catchy choruses, light melodies, and soothing vocals on the surface.
Dave Scher, an absolute force on the electric guitar, lends his talents to the EP for the song “Gypsy Soul.” Additionally — and not to be missed — is the stripped down, short-but-powerful “Miss Chavelle.” Clocking in at just under three minutes, Tamara Mack absolutely kills the track with her singing, while the guitar moseys along as a backbone.
This extended play is a short work of beauty, but the there is a special magic that comes with seeing a group live. Go out and get a taste.