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CD REVIEW: Jon Cleary – GoGo Juice

Jon Cleary – GoGo Juice
(FHQ Records. CD Review by Peter Jones)

For the last 35 years Jon Cleary has lived and breathed the sound of New Orleans as a keyboard player, guitarist and singer. Although he hails originally from Cranbrook in Kent, he was welcomed with open arms by the Crescent City locals for his skills as a performer and songwriter steeped in the New Orleans tradition, and since then he has been a prominent citizen of the troubled city which he has made his home.

On this, his sixth album, the sound is pure Americana, more rock than jazz or r&b, soul or funk – although there are strong elements of all these genres (he explicitly reveals his love for them all on Bringing Back The Home). Much of the music is of the timeless truck stop/barroom variety – highly polished and packed with all the musical accoutrements of working class American music: funky rhythms, fat horn arrangements and Cleary’s husky singing voice.

At times this can topple over into cliché: lyrically Beg, Steal or Borrow is a case in point – not merely the title but many of the lyrics do little more than recycle common expressions like ‘you’ve gotta be in it to win it’ and ‘the best things in life are free’. But there are also plenty of moments to savour. I like the album most when the songs reveal Cleary’s softer, more reflective and socially conscious side, such as Brother I’m Hungry and Step Into My Life.

GoGo Juice won’t change the world, but it’s an enjoyable addition to the family.

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