JD and The Straight Shot

Tuesday 21st July 2015

The Half Moon, Putney, London, United Kingdom

JD and The Straight Shot are a five-piece from New York who blend elements of blues, country and Americana into their music and with their album ‘Where I’ve Been’ out now and a new album to be released later in the year they decided to embark on a week’s worth of live dates in the UK with a stop at the legendary Half Moon Putney for a headline appearance.

Opening with ‘Midnight Run’ the band didn’t mess about as they created a rich guitar sound with not one but three guitarists. JD told us that the band had written a lot of songs for movies and this song was used in one. As they sang, I thought of country music superstar Brad Paisley and how he injects humour in his songwriting whether he is singing about social media (the song ‘Online’) or driving bootleg liquor across US counties (the song ‘Moonshine In the Trunk’).

They explained that they will be releasing a new album in September and treated us to some of the tracks from the forthcoming release. ‘Empty’ had some really technically skilled guitar from Marc Copely who played open G slide on his Resonator guitar. The vocal harmonies between JD and Erin Slaver were absolutely stunning and really helped get the song’s meaning across to the audience.

‘Where I’ve Been’ was written about the drama of turning fifty years old and to me, sounded like a Randy Newman song but with tongue-in-cheek lyrics ‘Gravity’s got a hold on me. Things are where they ain’t supposed to be’. In addition, I think it is great that the violin was involved in their songs because it gives the material a complete textured  approach.

‘No Good Under That Hood’ is culturally significant at the moment with the underlying issues between American law enforcement and ethnic minorities so it does have emotional connotations to it. The use of twelve-string guitar complemented the song beautifully and they should be very proud of that song. ‘Hard To Find’ was featured in the film ‘St Vincent’ which starred Bill Murray and it showcases JD and The Straight Shot’s songwriting chops. Quite frankly, if you had told me this was an unreleased Willie Nelson song I would believe you.

I felt the mood went quite sombre with ‘Violet’s Song’ as they sing ‘Christmas gifts that were never there’ and I understood why it was used in ‘August Osage County’ which starred Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.

Now it was time for a cover and what I loved about this moment is the fact that they didn’t choose an obvious hit song and instead opted for ‘Nature’s Way’ by the American band Spirit. The real key thing about Spirit is that from a songwriting point of view they were quite ahead of the times as in this song they explain about trees dying and litter on the streets making it one of the earliest tracks about being environmentally  conscious in the world. Admittedly, I haven’t heard many people perform this song but it was well-delivered and Erin’s violin solo which really put their own spin on it which meant that the song wasn’t a note-for-note plodding cover. Well done!

‘Don’t Waste My Time’ was like listening to a children’s musical box and was a haunting piece whilst ‘Better Find A Church’ had some really funky upright acoustic bass from  Byron House which was definitely a highlight for me. Returning to the stage for the encore they were met with large applause and they finished with ‘Ready to Go’ as JD explained that he was in The Hard Rock Hotel Casino in Las Vegas and was comfortably winning at a table. During this time, a lady approached him and explained that she would like to swap her Subaru for a BMW and he could help.  A version of a Little Feat song iced the musical cake.

It was an entertaining finale which left the crowd going home with smiles on their faces. The band are extremely talented not only as musicians but also as songwriters and I thoroughly enjoyed their performance and I am looking forward to the new album and also a return to the UK for some more live shows.

Glenn Sargeant

JD and The Straight Shot’s “Where I’ve Been” is out now – the forthcoming record (Fall 2015) features the new track “Better Find A Church” produced by Rodney Crowell.

For more on this act, see their 20 Questions.

For more information visit www.jdandthestraightshot.com/

(Thanks to Pete Sargeant, Kieran White, Lewis Fromberg and Dan Deacon of Deacon Communications for all of their help with this review)