Posts Tagged ‘Sony/ATV’

John Fusco and the X-Road Riders: John the Revelator

Monday, November 2nd, 2020

Screenwriter stretches out with 2-CD set of blues and more

Best known for his screenplays (Crossroads, Young Guns, Hidalgo, The Highwaymen), John Fusco shows again on his second album that he’s no dilettante as a blues vocalist, instrumentalist, songwriter or band leader. Last year’s debut with the X-Road Riders grew out of some jam sessions with Cody Dickinson, and this year’s model doubles down with a 2-CD outing that splits the discs between two bands – one drawn from north of the Mason-Dixon line, and the other from south. Each band offers a number of influences, and across the two discs the set provides a variety of blues, soul, pop, gospel and rock. Fusco provides continuity between the two bands, but also takes the opportunity to launch in different directions with each.

The southern band (or “chapter,” as designated in the liner notes) fires on all cylinders for “Bone Deep,” with Fusco’s raspy vocal underlined by Risse Norman’s soulful singing, alongside harmonica, and guitar, and organ that brings to mind Booker T & The MGs. Sarah Morrow’s trombone adds sly annotations and a solo to the cautionary “It Takes a Man,” and Norman and Fusco’s back-and-forth duet highlights “Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing.” Fusco’s vocals and piano take a turn towards Dr. John for “Ophelia,” and Patrick Moss’s fiddle accompanies lyrics of enduring love on the Chris Staplelton-like “Applejack Brandy.” Disc one closes with a ten-minute workout on “Bad Dog” and the not-at-all-subtle political right hook “Snake Oil Man.”

The northern band opens with the lost faith of “Song for Peter” and its testimony of a longtime street denizen. It’s the sort of story we often hurry past, but Fusco’s soulful vocal and piano, supported by a warm bass line and shot through by electric guitar, get beneath the ragged surface and call for you to listen. The second disc stretches out stylistically, getting funkier and jazzier for “Jacqueline,” mixing in ballads that suggest Leon Russell’s solo work, dramatic rock that would sound at home in a Bob Seger set, and the ‘70s-styled country-pop “Motel Laws of Arizona.” Fusco voice draws together the eclectic stylings into a coherent double album whose variety essays a fertile chapter in a film writer’s not-so-second career as a music maker. [©2020 Hyperbolium]