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4 Jacks - First off, what a cool name! “J” stands for Big Joe Maher, “A” is for Anson Funderburgh, “K” is for Kevin McKendree, and last, but not least, ‘S’ is for Steve Mackey. Please no questions about the “C”!
I first saw this band in 2012 on Delbert McClinton‘s Sandy Beaches Cruise and there was a buzz that they were going into Kevin McKendree’s studio to record. I saw them again this past January on this year’s Delbert cruise and Kevin McKendree handed me their new CD. Yes! Three of the four players have close ties to Delbert, so unless (I’m not knowing) Big Joe Maher is the only unconnected musician to Mr. McClinton. McKendree and Mackey have been with Delbert for some time now, and Anson previously recorded with Delbert. Big Joe played on McKendree’s Hammers and Strings CD, so there’s that tie in. Long story short, lots of tie-ins.
Deal With It is comprised of twelve tracks, three are covers, and most of the balance of tunes were either written or co-written by Maher. The instrumental title track opens this album and it’s a promising start. McKendree broils on B3, Funderburgh is right on with his big fat tone as the band locks in on a track that could have been recorded in the Sixties. Good stuff! Maher’s “Have Ourselves a Time” is so hip! Maher’s in his typical good vocal form, Funderburgh’s guitar is sweet, Mackey’s locked in, and McKendree tickles the keys and it’s a fun, good time for all. Percy Mayfield’s “I Don’t Want To Be President” follows and fits the bill like a glove. Funderburgh’s sparse playing nails it, McKendree doubles on B3 and piano and he’s is right on too. “Vote for me!”
Maher’s rollicking “She Ain’t Worth a Dime” rolls. McKendree keys are spot on with Maher’s vocals carrying on. The smoky, late-night vibe on Maher’s “Love’s Like That” is an end-of-the-night vamp. Funderburgh fits in smartly with his solo, McKendree’s very supportive on piano as this gem mesmerizes. It’s blues time on Maher’s “Bobcat Woman,” which is about putting poison in the coffee and arsenic in the tea, not a very happy lyric, but this tune will make you smile as the band percolates throughout. Their cover of “Your Turn to Cry” is, as expected, a sordid tale that’s very bluesy and talks about that there’s someone else by my side.
Maher’s “Thunder and Lightning” feels like it could have been out of the Freddie King songbook. Funderburgh easily fits the King’s part as the entire band coagulates to the end. Appropriately, “Texas Twister” follows instrumentally. Funderburgh’s so cozy and delivers on all fronts; the band follows in perfection on this ultra-fun tune authored by every band member. “Ansonmypants,” co-authored by Maher and Yates McKendree (Kevin’s son) is another hoot. Anson is so dead on and just sails, daddy McKendree hits the B3 as his kid sparkles on the keys. “Bad News Baby” is another late-night blues cover. You know what’s coming but want it. Yes, you’re bad news baby, cheat on me and let my hair turn gray… bring it on. Anson delivers the dirty deeds on guitar to near perfection, as does Maher’s vocals, who’s righteously out of his mind and has had his fill, but he’s still loving that bad news baby.
This cool disc closes with the instrumental “Painkiller,” authored by all the band members that could have easily been covered by the original sixties version of the Meters, it’s so sultry and appropriately funky.
Who makes albums like this? Nobody, but when you blend the high musicianship assembled here and add their knowledge of the music they cherish, what else could you expect? High-quality tunes performed flawlessly. Very recommended listening, little else compares.
Bob Putignano is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax, a contributing writer at Blues Revue, and the heart and soul of Sounds of Blue.