Friday, March 25 at 8 p.m.
As if creeping from the Southern swamps and mist-soaked cotton fields, SIMO’s “Stranger Blues” is the perfect table setter for the Nashville power trio’s vibrant new LP, Let Love Show the Way. The song is a blueprint for reinvigorating the fusion of jazz improvisation, downhome blues and classic R&B, as well as these genres’ psychedelic Brit Invasion and countrified Southern-rock manifestations. The rest of the record follows suit, a souped-up vehicle transporting the band on a deeply satisfying, off-the-cuff musical journey.
Cut entirely live in full, unbroken takes—vocals and solos included—the sound is primal, sweltering and immediate. “We live and die by the take,” says singer-guitarist JD Simo. “We don’t edit, and if there are overdubs, they’re minimal. I want it to be unaffected and pure. For me, the music that always resonates most is when a performance is captured. That’s what I love, and that’s what we go for.”
The first album ever recorded at Macon, Ga.’s Big House—the communal home of the Allman Brothers Band during their late ’60s/early ’70s heyday—Let Love Show the Way finds SIMO not just reveling in the hallowed space’s unique mojo and history, but taking it to a fresh and inspired place. As a musical unit, Simo, his longtime drummer Adam Abrashoff and bassist Elad Shapiro have an undeniable chemistry, taken to even greater heights with JD playing Duane Allman’s 1957 gold-top Les Paul for every track on the record.
Let Love Show the Way was not planned—results this potent are difficult to script. In fact, when SIMO headed down to Macon, the band had an entirely different set of songs already approved for release by its label, Mascot—this last-minute trip to the Big House was merely intended to yield a pair of bonus tracks for a deluxe edition. But with engineer Nick Worley at the boards of a stripped-down mobile recording unit, the band caught fire, burning through more than a dozen tracks in less than 48 hours. Once they heard the raw and electrifying intensity of the mixes, they didn’t think twice about abandoning the original plan and rolling with what suddenly felt so right.
While Simo is comfortable with his role as a bandleader, he’s never wanted to be a solo artist. “A band is something very unique and special,” he says. “You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. Adam is one of my best friends. He and I have been through the whole scope of the journey so far together. And now, with Elad—who has taken the band to a new level—we truly are a team. We’re brothers.”
Together, they’re an adventurous rock & roll trinity, a thriving creative partnership completed by JD’s combustible guitar playing and soulful vocals, and Let Love Show the Way is a game-changing album from a band in the midst of an evolutionary breakthrough. “I’m a stranger here,” JD belts on the record’s opening salvo, all mysterious swagger and smoky, downhome grit. But for a band with such memorable songs, uncommon rapport and awe-inspiring musicality, SIMO can take solace in knowing the line won’t hold true much longer.
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