CD Review: Jon Shain Plays That Sweet Ooncha Ooncha Music
Jon Shain has been bumping around the North Carolina scene since his days in the proto-jam rock band Flyin’ Mice, but more recently he has released a string of albums in a more blues/Americana direction. Times Right Now, his latest release, continues that trend and adds some more full band arrangements to make it a slightly funkier, more groove-oriented collection.
Shain certainly knows who to call for a recording session–this time around in addition to his core band he’s enlisted the drummer and horn section from The Grandsons, and Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey each make appearances.
The result is a batch of songs that veer from the New Orleans gumbo of “Mr. Snakeoil!” to the more traditional-sounding “Yadkin River Blues.” Shain makes a pretty convincing bluesman, with a weary, world-worn voice that’s equally at home on the uptempo tunes and the occasional ballad.
Of the latter, “Spinning Compass” is perhaps the prettiest song on the album, a lovely fingerpicked story of spinning your wheels: “Still it’s all the same things going down / down in your hometown.”
The title comes from the traditional tune “James Alley Blues,” offered up in a greasy Big Easy version that pairs some wicked harmonica soloing from Bill Newton with the sax of The Grandsons’ Chris Watling and Shain singing the blues over the top. it’s a classic tale of love and hate, capped off with the memorable refrain, “Sometimes I think you’re too sweet to die, other times I think you ought to be buried alive.”
Times right now, an album like this won’t make much of a dent in the grand scheme of things; for those lucky enough to discover its charms, however, Shain explains a little of his own motivation on “Ooncha Ooncha Music”:
“Call me backwards, call me square
I can’t help my love affair
with the sweet ooncha ooncha music”