Modern blues legend Joe Bonmassa brought Simo to the attention of the Mascot Label Group and makes the brave statement that frontman and Guitarist JD Simo is “one of the best out there right now”. Proud boast but does the band and album live up to the hype?
Well, I'm glad to say it does and then some! Where have they been all these years? This trio has an amazing chemistry and JD is complimented by long-time drummer Adam Abrashoff and bassist Elad Shapiro. They work in the way all good musos do – intuitively. This album is filled with an old school musical sound with classic R and B licks, a southern rock feel and plenty of energetic guitar playing and improvisation.
Let Love Show The Way comprises a mixture of live favourites and new tracks too. Recorded in the Allman Brothers old house and with JD using Duane Allman's 1957 gold-top Les Paul for every track. From the moment JD picks up that guitar, the magic spell was cast – after all, this was the guitar that Duane played on Derek & The Dominoes iconic track Layla. Few have played it but generations have been inspired by its bewitching sound. As a nod to the mighty Duane, the last song on the Album is a reprise of Please Be with Me (a song that the Band Cowboy did with Duane not long before he died). Maybe by accident or design, Simo's Album contains some 'other assorted love songs' too!
The album gets straight in there with a high powered cover of the Elmore James staple, Stranger Blues. Simo has it up to 11 from the start and there is no respite from the torrential guitar playing with Two Timing Woman either. The emotionally charged and favourite Can't Say Her Name (cos it's called something different every day) is about love for a woman already in a relationship (not unlike Layla!) I Lied touches the heart, the yearning guitar playing and emotionally raw singing. Simo's music speaks from the heart and you can feel it, astonishingly this song was written the day before recording and cut in around 15 minutes!
Please is where The Beatles meet Motown and a homage to the iconic Please Please Me by the Fab Four. It changes the feel of the album and is less raw that some of the other tracks, but demonstrates the band's ability to play with a radio friendly mainstream blues sound to great effect. Long May You Sail has an indie rock vibe, with the rough waves of JD's guitar crashing trough the track. I'd Rather Die In Vain is a chance for the band to show off their improv skills with a track about internal conflicts; it's not an optimistic track in terms of tone, but it certainly has the feel of a Jekyll and Hyde battle of madness and sanity with a wailing torrent of guitar and crashing drums. Today I'm Here sees the band go acoustic with a soothing sea of slide guitar and an end harmonic that creates a contrast to the previous track and wraps up the album perfectly.
Bonus tracks Let Love Show The Way is a reflective ballad of Led Zep proportions with jangling guitars and soaring vocals whilst Ain't Doin' Nothin' is an instrumental jam track just shy of 14 minutes and packed of improvisational guitar wizardry with echoes of Santana and Hendrix.
Simo may have been off the radar for a while, but with bags of old school charm, vintage guitars and some astonishing melodies and Joe Bonamassa's praise, I think it's a certainty that Simo will be hot property and not slinking off to the sidelines anytime soon.