Jelly Roll Gospel
Brother JT, the spiritualist of Blendrometry, is a comedic genius besides being a damn fine musician. One only needs to see his talent by doing a Google search for “Tripping Balls with Brother JT.” Or one could check out his pseudo (?) religion, “Blendrometry.” It is kind of like Zen Buddhism but it involves consumption of copious amounts of alcohol and illicit substances to achieve a nirvana.
Brother JT has been around the various underground music scenes in Philadelphia from the late 1980's to today. Back then he was best known for his band The Original Sins. He has been plugging away for a decade-and-a-half, making great music. All the hard work is clearly evident on this fine disc Jelly Roll Gospel.
Jelly Roll Gospel is the real deal; it has genuine soul along with Brother JT’s great humor. This is a summer album. You cannot help but feel the sun’s warm glow on every listen. It opens up with the upbeat “Lift You Up” which also mentions melancholy, making the optimism of the song so contagious.
“Accident Waiting” is a sad song but not without hope. “You are a fright, you are a sight for sore eyes.... you mad little thing, you are a fad, you are a thrush on the wing, And you are an accident waiting to happen.” The song ends with the declaration “We are all accidents waiting to happen.”
“Ribbon Driver “is a swampy bluesy stomp. White boy blues is an old trick, but a trick when played well can be quite enjoyable. Mr. JT carries it off effortlessly with aplomb. “Way Out” is an ode to “The Strong.” It is a reggae-ish jam that mixes in radio static that, if you are imbibing, might cause you to become paranoid that one’s speakers are about to blow up. This song has my favorite line of the album, “So have a drink, or maybe six, to find a way, find a way, find a way, to get away, get away, get away.” JT lays down bristling guitar solos while the rhythm section keeps up the rock steady beat. “The world is wrong, but I got me some, to get away.”
“Bad Vibrations” is straight up blues, which makes me, someone not normally a fan of such things, a convert. The cough from what I presume to be a bong hit lets us in that Brother JT does not take himself seriously, which is a problem with most white boy blues. The original blues I think always had a tongue firmly planted in the cheek. It also does not hurt to have an absolute crack band backing you up. “What You Make Of It” is an uplifting ska-inspired jam that includes cowbell. As we all know from the SNL skit you can never have too much cowbell.
“Belly Fat” is, you guessed it, an ode to belly fat. It is Brother JT's version of “Big Girls Need Love Too.” He might also be prognosticating about his own, um, girthy-ness as well. “There ain't nothing wrong with that, a little bit of Belly Fat.” Once again his backing band provides the structure for Brother JT to let loose in. There are some pretty slick guitar solos laid down. Normally I don't approve of wanky-ness, but since it is the JT I will let it slide.
“Do Ya Good” is probably the most straight up song on the disc. It has a breezy summer vibe going on for it. It starts with a rolling bass line and light touch of cymbal, and Brother JT provides his own vocal percussion. “There is milk and honey, oozing out of stuff, and sometimes there is even money, to buy stuff with, so you can feel funny, inside.” The chorus “I want to do you, really want to do yah, some good, good good,” is a little bit grating but the rest of the lyrics are great stoned stream-of-consciousness.
“Thank You For Being Me” is actually a really touching song. “I am sick of looking at the guy, the one with the me disguise, I would like to pull his head right off, and let you try it on for size. And then maybe I would see what you see in me.” When the organ comes on it truly does sound like a gospel, as Brother Jt belts out“Thank You for Being Me”
“Everything's Alive” is a great uplifting song to end the album with. This song is for driving down dark back roads on hot summer nights listening to the roar of insects. At times it seems Brother JT is channeling Jerry Garcia (that is not meant as an insult). As the song progresses things start to open up and get more like a Dead “Space” jam, while maintaining a forward momentum (okay so I had older siblings who were Dead Heads, is that a problem for you?). The jam continues to build and build and then it cuts back returning to the chant of “Everything” from the start of the song, shifting to an “Everything’s Alive” chant before fading out in cascades of bells, guitars, and bubbling bass. Each instrument dies out one by one, leaving the whooshing of a synthesizer.
It is a travesty that Brother JT is not huge; he should be making Harold & Kumar style stoner comedies, except he is actually really funny & profound. He as skilled as Ween at mixing humor with killer Jams. If Ween could trick the Dead Heads into liking them there is no reason Brother JT couldn't. Behind all the humor and slick musicianship Brother JT has a soul. He can save your soul too. Just watch the videos about Blendrometry. It changed my life; he will change yours. “Ohhmmmm, I don't want a hoagie.” (Drag City) (Dan Cohoon)