Title - 'John The Revelator'
Artist - John Fusco and the X-Road Riders
For those not in the know, Vermont bluesman John Fusco and his band the X-Road Riders will follow up their acclaimed 2019 self-titled debut with the 20-track double album John the Revelator, due out July 31, 2020 on Checkerboard Lounge Recordings.
More than three decades after, as a teenager, Fusco ran away from his Vermont home to Louisiana and Mississippi, returning with a semi-autobiographical screenplay called Crossroads, the writer-musician returned to the south to film his Netflix hit The Highwaymen, finding time to jam with Cody Dickinson and deliver the aforementioned album.
Here on John The Revelator he comes back with 18 new songs and two covers spread across the two discs.
1. 'John The Revelator'
2. 'Baker Man'
3. 'Bone Deep'
4. 'It Takes A Man'
5. 'Ophelia (Oh, I Feel Ya)'
6. 'Don't Mess Up A Good Thing'
7. 'Applejack Brandy'
8. 'Why You Chose Me'
9. 'Bad Dog'
10. 'Snake Oil Man'
1. 'Song For Peter'
3. 'Hottest Part Of The Flame'
4. 'Language Of Angels'
5. 'Fool's Fire'
6. 'Baby, Let's Not Borrow'
7. 'Moonstone Lady'
8. 'Motel Laws Of Arizona'
9. 'Good Money After Bad'
10. 'The Sun Also Rises'
For this expansive new album, Fusco has assembled a cast of modern blues stars: Dickinson (the North Mississippi Allstars), who produced Fusco’s first, appears behind the board again and also contributes background vocals, drums, bass, guitars, dobro, piano, and electric washboard.
Vocalist Risse Norman, who has toured and recorded with the North Mississippi Allstars and Samantha Fish, also returns. They are joined by new Fusco collaborator Sarah Morrow, former trombonist for Ray Charles and bandleader for Dr. John.
The big-name collaborations also extend to the album’s cover, which features artwork by Bobby Whitlock, best known as a keyboard player for Sam & Dave, Delaney & Bonnie, and Derek & the Dominoes, among others.
Oh, and Fusco also brings back his “northern chapter” of the X-Road Riders from his Vermont home.
Opening with the atmospheric, Gospel-laced, evocatively moody title track, 'John The Revelator' (itself a cover of a blues standard made famous by Son House), Fusco backs that up seamlessly with the gruff slide guitar, stripped-down sound of 'Baker Man,' the Hammond and harmonica-led, bawdy blues rocker 'Bone Deep,' the upbeat and funky horn work of 'It Takes A Man,' and then the piano and organ masterpiece 'Ophelia (Oh, I Feel Ya).'
The Gospel and blues-influenced duet 'Don't Mess Up A Good Thing' is definitely one of the stand out tracks here on the first disc, and that's followed by the lo-fi, tender reminiscing of 'Applejack Brandy,' the lonesome, road weary flow of 'Why You Chose Me,' coming to a close on the soulful Hammond and light guitar work of 'Bad Dog' and the three ring circus appeal of the satirical 'Snake Oil Man.'
The second disc opens with the quietly passive ballad 'Song For Peter' which is followed by the mid-tempo jaunt of 'Jacqueline'
("She comes walking out her front door, big sweet smile like Mary Tyler Moore"), the low down, percussive tale of doomed lovers within 'Hottest Part Of The Flame,' and then some achingly heartfelt recall is found within 'Language Of Angels,' before we get Fusco's excellent guitar work coming to the fore on 'Fool's Fire.'
Another stand out track for me is the piano and guitar masterpiece, combined with Fusco's trademark vocals, 'Baby, Let's Not Borrow,' which is backed by the gilded 'Moonstone Lady,' the gentle blues rocker that encapsulates those down-and-out drifters of 'Motel Laws Of Arizona,' the Hammond and Horn-enriched, Gospel and blues 'Good Money After Bad,' coming to a close on the warmly expansive 'The Sun Also Rises.'
“The first album was a loose, high-octane jam sesh, and Cody hit the record button. This next one digs into some deeper emotional clay as with ‘Language of Angels,’ ‘Applejack Brandy,’ and ‘Ophelia,’” says Fusco of the more subdued, gospel-laced material he cut at Meadowlark on the studio’s grand piano.
“Braiding the more emotional ballads in with the raw blues rockers and traditional blues stuff, it makes the album a little more unexpected and mercurial.”
John Fusco @ Twitter