Jess and the Bandits
Here We Go Again
Breathing New Life into Country Music!
I only ‘discovered’ Jess and the Bandits when a friend ‘recommended/insisted’ that I see them play a showcase at the recent SummerTyne Americana Festival. Over the course of three days I saw them three times and each time the audience doubled in size; such was the power of ‘word of mouth.’
For logistical reasons those shows were acoustic; so I sat open mouthed, not knowing what was happening to my ears when I first listened to this album!
On the opening track Ready Set, Ricci Riccardi sounds like he’s trying to kick through the skin on his drums as fiery guitars and a pumping bass send your senses into overdrive before Jess Clemmons enters the fray; and when she does, you know she’s in charge!
This is followed by the slower; but just as muscular Love Like That and again; your ears will be shaking with excitement as Jess builds the tension on a will she/won’t she love song that teenagers will take straight to their hearts.
Sassy, sexy and never leaving anything in the tank, Jess Clemmons attacks some of these songs as if her life depends on it. On Wanted Man it sounds like she’s channelling Janis Joplin through Faith Hill on a song that wouldn’t be out of place on the Nashville TV series.
Even with the Country Rock backdrop here, I still recognised My Name is Trouble and just know it’s going to be a real ‘fist pumper’ when played live; I know because that’s what I was mentally doing in the car!
Immediately afterwards Drunk On Me opens with some dirty Keith Richards style guitar before Jess tells her man “You ain’t never gonna find nothings going to get you as high/as this/this kiss/satisfaction guaranteed.’ They way the words get spat out, I believe her.
One of the highlights of the concerts was when Jess would introduce Single Tonight with a pout and a wink; and you can sense that attitude all the way through and as a man I may or may not have encountered young ladies like the one she sings about. But I was always too frightened to approach them.
Jessica spent several years on the circuit as a solo singer and now after three years as Jess and the Bandits Ms. Clemmons and band have become overnight sensations in the UK!
I believe the album would be a hit anyway; but the inclusion of the anthemic and danceable Nitty Gritty has got them Category A status on BBC Radio 2 and brought them numerous appearances on daytime TV which equates to sales in numbers they couldn’t dream of a year ago.
Not only is Nitty Gritty a cracking pop-Country song; the message it delivers about ‘loving yourself regardless of shape, size or colour’ is one many have tried to deliver; but not half as well or simply as this song does.
I’ve mentioned before that over the past couple of years too many of my friends bemoan the lack of ‘real Country/Blues/Folk etc.’ but I always argue that they aren’t looking hard enough as this record proves. Jess and the Bandits have obviously listened to a lot of great Country Music in their short lives and soaked up every note and nuance before developing their very own distinctive sound that will especially appeal to younger female fans; but not in a way that alienates old fogeys like me either.
Released June 2015