This week we have a spangly new release from gifted guitarist Jimmy Herring, available a week before its iTunes debut from independent label and distributor Abstract Logix. “Subject To Change WIthout Notice” is Herring’s second solo release and is all instrumental like his debut recording. Jazz, rock, blues, fusion and deep jams are all tightly in the pocket for this American guitarist from North Carolina who has been steadily gaining deserved accolades since he hit the jam band scene in the early ’90s.
Subject to Change without Notice
2012 Abstract Logix
Jimmy Herring first came to my attention many years ago as a member of Jazz is Dead, an excellent ensemble featuring keys wiz T. Lavitz, master drummer Billy Cobham and the talented Alphonso Johnson playing fusion jazz-rock, instrumental cover interpretations of classic Grateful Dead songs! Herring played with Phil Lesh and The Dead (post-Jerry, of course) was also a founding member of jam band Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit, and in 2006 Herring took over the lead Guitarist role for Widespread Panic.
Herring in the recording studio
His first solo work, 2008’s Lifeboat, is a terrific record, showcasing his fierce playing, soulful and melodic and at times blazingly beautiful. His playing on the 2008 studio collaboration with John Bell and Widespread Panic was revelatory — fusion meets rock and folk and great songs/lyrics while jamming hard — making this writer a new Panic fan.
Now for his second solo release, and it’s a searing statement. He’s a masterful guitarist with elegant phrasing, tone, timing and improvising chops up the wazoo, and that shows through in his all of his work, but for the second straight solo outing, his music really stands out as well written, well-conceived with tightly structured instrumental songs. It is wonderfully organic, amazingly melodic and tuneful for a “guitar” album. In his own words, Herring says “I’ve always loved simple songs. Some people don’t expect that when you do an instrumental record, but big, open-hearted melodies are just as important as anything else. Man, a simple song with basic chords, that’s just a beautiful place to be.”
Herring’s band for “Subject to Change…” is anchored by Jeff Sipe on drums, Neil Fountain on bass, and Matt Slocum on keys, and the tunage is a melange of instrumental styles:
The Jimmy Herring Band, 2012
- hot-quartet gypsy jazz on the opener Red Wing Special, with guest fiddling from Nicky Sanders and some rollicking jazz lines from Herring
- stately and melodically sophisticated Kaleidoscope Carousel, an instrumental rock ballad reminiscent of the songs of Widespread Panic and the melodically soulful jams of The Grateful Dead
- flat out funk laced with organ grittiness on a cover of Jimmy McGriff’s Miss Poopie, boasts a soulfully soaring groove-swept guitar solo complemented by Ike Stubblefield’s beautiful B3 work and bassist Fountain’s tight-ass pocket
- bluegrassy goodness comes from the tune Curfew highlighting the virtuoso banjo work of Bela Fleck who starts things rollicking with his sweet solo followed by Herring’s country stylizing
- jazz-rock fusion guitar hero John McLaughlin’s song “Hope” is re-imagined with the help of JM’s bassist African Etienee Mbappe plus a killing sax solo from jazz and fusion great Bill Evans while Herring’s crafts a cascading wall of guitar riffs
- Eastern melodies and modal guitar soloing over drone tones drift into consciousness on a delicious cover of Beatles fave Within Without You
- Emerald Garden is a languid, luscious acoustic-guitar piece mellowed but moving
- Gospel-tinged Aberdeen and straight-ahead jazzer 12 Keys continue Herring’s exploration of simple music as well as complex jazz progressions, and he closes out the project with some rhythmically rocking riffs on the tight and funky blues number Bilgewater Blues
Ten songs, ten different musical explorations. And along the way, Jimmy Herring’s guitar work offers tremendous tone and expressive emotional nuance in every solo. He has an incredible ability to play leads that are silky and smooth, guttural and graceful; and he can also rip long lyrical explosions of speed, never once sounding rushed or simply shredding the keyboard. His solos are tuneful and each one sings, eliciting evocative sonic exclamations.
This new release was aided and abetted by Atlanta-based record producer and pedal steel guitarist, John Keane. Keane is known more for his pop work with R.E.M., Widespread Panic and The Indigo Girls, and here he brings a musical sensibility to the project, helping Herring craft a finely honed musical experience.
Download: Miss Poopie, Kaleidoscope Carousel, Hope, Red Wing Special