The Iscariots growl and party, Jess Goggans sizzles.
Act of Treason
Back in July, local reggae band The Iscariots released the album Act of Treason. We touched on it briefly in another column, but now I’d like to take a closer look at this collection of 12 tunes attractively wrapped in some 19th-century cover art.
The first track on the album is the titular “Act of Treason.” Here is as edgy and industrial a reggae tune as you are likely to hear. The throaty growl of the singer (Jungkurth) is paralleled by the throaty growl of the guitar and the whole song seems much harder than one typically expects, but perhaps this reflects the emotional content behind the tune. Demons are being exorcised.
“Fantasy World” is an old favorite that has seen play in a number of band incarnations and ought to be a hit single. “Cecelia” is a light, breezy, drinking-on-the-beach tune that takes me back to many a rum-filled afternoon at a beach cabana in Negril.
“Bluelights” is a poignant tune about why reggae musicians prefer to avoid Imperial entanglement when at all possible. Be smart about your business, kids, it ain’t legal yet.
“Back on the Road” is a reggae take on a theme that goes all the way back to the Delta blues, the wandering musician who can never settle down and has a girl (or three) in every town. “Supercool” is another upbeat tune, this one decrying the “rasta” poser whose dreads were purchased and whose lingo was gleaned from the best “How to Sound Jamaican” websites Google can offer.
Six more tune flesh out this disc, including “Nothing Lasts Forever” which pulls off that unique reggae trick of sounding both bright and slightly sinister, “Follow You Down” which features an unexpected and delightful harmonica, “Please Don’t Harsh My Mellow” that hints at some Velvet Underground influence, and perennial favorite “Outlaw” in which the singer offers to organize a friendly get-together with like-minded parties.
The album is a powerful entry by the Iscariots and is available through a number of outlets including CDBaby, but the best way to get yourself a copy is to attend an Iscariots show or, failing that, to find the boys through social media and make arrangement to pick one up in person.
Act of Treason is the warm, Caribbean wind you’re going to need to fend off the upcoming cold winter months.
(Purchase on Reverbnation)
Some time back a particularly handsome and brilliant reviewer said of Jess Goggans’ voice that it “is practically a weapon, capable of cutting with scalpel precision or coming down on your head like a war hammer.” He went on to wonder aloud why she isn’t better known in Chattanooga.
What a difference a couple of months makes. Jess has been gigging all over town and throughout the region and has achieved a great deal of name recognition in a relatively short period. So now seems like the right time to have a closer look at her album Reality.
The album, released back in the summer, consists of ten tracks of smoking-hot blues action that cover the considerable territory that designation suggests. From the funky opening track, “Barefoot Hookin’” to the slow, classic, descending chord structure of “Story Tellin’ Blues” and the frenetic “In the Middle,” Goggans and her band The Magnetics are able to shift gears smoothly and demonstrate an impressive dynamic range in a genre where all too often performers stay one-dimensional.
The title track is as damn near perfect a blues tune as I have ever heard. The marriage of instruments to voice is spot on, as the guitar and organ join forces with Goggans’ vocals to form a Greek chorus of sorts.
“Leavin’ the State” is another fast tempo, bright and bouncy tune that leads one to believe Jess may be a fan of The Pointer Sisters or perhaps even Lonnie Donegan (the King of Skiffle).
I don’t know how much New Orleans influences her music—but I know this: Every time I hear this tune I grow nostalgic for the taste of beignets on a Sunday morning.
“Rock Me” is a minimalist tune, more jazz than blues, but very tasty and “Shepard Shepard” features a wailing harmonica reminiscent of Gatemouth Brown. “Mountain Sam” is pure Chicago-style blues with a lead guitar that must have been a personal favor from Carlos Santana.
The final two tracks, “Turn You On” and “The Way” are a slight departure from the rest of the album in that they seem to embody modern funk. once again demonstrating the range of this lady and her band.
The unifying element throughout all is undeniably Goggans’ voice, which demonstrates such power, sensuality and depth that I’d wager even her sneezes are kind of sexy and dangerous.
The album is Reality and it is available now through a number of outlets, including Reverbnation. It is Blues with a capital B and you must have it now!