Souther's live comeback has jazz tilt
Reviewed November 2010
Rain Live At The Belcourt Theatre
By J.D. Souther
Slow Curve Records: 2010
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
In the 1970s and '80s, J.D. Souther's songs were a part of the California sound as he wrote and co-wrote a number of tunes for Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles, and his own Souther Hillman Furay Band. Though his solo career never quite took off, he kept busy as a session artist and writer then stopped recording for more than two decades. In 2008, he gathered a group of jazz backup musicians to record a comeback album, "If The World Was You." This new approach is being followed up with a live EP ("Rain") with many of the same supporting cast.
Souther recorded the seven tracks in Nashville last year and tries mightily to attain a jazz groove on several. The title cut opens, an interesting, Latin-sounding song about Cuba that shifts beats on the choruses that ride good percussion, bass and keys beneath the best jazz horns on the disc. Souther sings off-key plenty here and elsewhere, but he is clearly trying and the words are vivid. "A Chorus of Your Own" slows down and gives the horn men space to overplay, and they do the audience likes it, but there's no need to evoke Coltrane on a song like this. Santana comes to mind with "Journey Down the Nile," as we hear about mystery, prophets and ancient times.
Played and sung solo with just acoustic guitar, "New Kid in Town," the Eagles hit he co-wrote with Glen Frey and Don Henley, sounds pretty much like Frey singing it. Still, while it isn't strictly a Souther tune, it's the best thing on this disc. "Silver Blue" was covered by Ronstadt and the version here uses piano and acoustic guitar nicely. The live show wraps with Souther's "You're Only Lonely." This tune sounds good with just guitar, the way it was written. These stripped-down tunes are the best here, and feature the best vocals.
Souther has some interesting music to play, and the jazz approach works well on a couple of tracks. Fans of '70s-style country-rock, the Eagles, and artists like Neil Young will enjoy hearing J.D. Souther sing live on "Rain."
Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.