If the folks running Greenfest hoped to show off Maine’s potential for solar power, Saturday wasn’t the day. It was bitter and windy. Less than perfect for playing music outside.
There was the Jason Spooner Band, tabbed to play last in front of a fraying crowd heading indoors to warm up. Bassist Adam Frederick stuck his hands in his pockets behind his instrument and hopped on the balls of his feet. Spooner wore a fleece vest and blew on his hands as he worked through soundcheck. New keyboardist Warren Mcpherson picked out a couple notes before shuddering into his heavy leather jacket with a big smile like he couldn’t quite believe they’d said yes to this.
But when the time came, they fired into their set and did what pros do.
That’s the big takeaway from the new chemical: These guys know what they’re doing.
Even though there are actually quite a few overdubs and more music than four people could generally make all by themselves on most songs, the 14 songs still feel like seeing a gig down at DBA in New Orleans. Stretching often past four or five minutes, they often have a live-style warm-up followed by instrumental turns at the front, Spooner singing a verse and a chorus and then giving way to Mcpherson or simply firing into a solo himself on the electric guitar.
There continues to be a lot of John Mayer to what he’s doing, but also the Neville Brothers and Medeski Martin & Wood, and plenty of other bands who are primarily live. The foundation of the album is a jam, and they’re just having a good time on top of it.
It’s no surprise then, by the time they come around, to find songs like “Weld” and “T’ump” that are fully instrumental, even on a singer/songwriter’s album. They roll on riffs, bordering on prog at times, and with plenty of jazz influence. It’s easy to picture Spooner as band leader, making lots of eye contact, reading the crowd.
Spooner has come a long way since 2002’s Lost Houses, and a good distance even from 2010’s Sea Monster. There’s less of the earnest guy with an acoustic guitar in him, and more of the professional musician.
It’s not clear he’s yet found the sound he’s looking for, though. The single, “Fireflies,” is rootsy like he’s often been, with the same basic harmonica riff from “Get Back Home” and even a late-song changeup where session pro Bucky Backster rails on the pedal steel.
TOYS IN THE ATTIC More than 10 years in, the Jason Spooner Band loosen up with chemical.
But the “Long Cold Grave” that precedes it is straight-up R&B, a loungey thing that eventually builds in playful low-end guitars and repeating chords for the organ to riff on top of. Spooner banters as much as sings: “You don’t know why / I know why / You should know why.” And the Motown backing at the finish recalls a line of three singers in strapless dresses.