The words on the CD say "John Hermann" but the music inside is all Jojo. Yeah, Widespread Panic is on break (or is the operative word "hiatus?"), which gives the individual members a chance to reveal some of their inner workings. Jojo has gotten together with longtime collaborators Luther and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi All-Stars and Crumpy Edwards to make the music he loves best. The result is Just Ain't Right, 12 tracks that resolve the essence of Hermann to a tee. For those of you who don't know, Jojo plays all the keyboards for Panic, filling in the wall of sound like spackle with piano, clavinet, and organ. Unlike many of your jam band musicians, his styles are less the result of over-education and esoteric styling and more the result of feel. All of the telltale Jojo-isms are apparent on this disc, from the rollicking juke-joint piano of Professor Longhair to the wailing southern blues organ to the funky, whack-a-mole clavinet playing that has become ubiquitous in the middle of long, dark WSP jams. Jojo fans rejoice!
While the music is quintessentially Jojo, the strongest presence on the album is from the Dickinson brothers, who thrive away from their usual fare with NMAS. "Where Do I Begin" is a Beatlesque Delta blues that deliciously combines Hermann's nasally grow-to-love-it-vocals with Luther's superlative slide guitar. "Here Lies Joseline" has Cody matching John's organ, giving that punchy gospel feel of The Band that punctuated a lot of Beanland's (Jojo's pre-Panic band) music. Here multiple pace-changes work nicely, and more are employed successfully throughout the disc. While not all the tracks work to perfection, I doubt that was the intent and your mileage will vary with how excited you can get over solo material from John Hermann. These types of releases don't crack new ground musically, nor do they intend to win new fans. Rather Just Ain't Right is a forum for Jojo to make the music he enjoys making with people he enjoys making it with, and if people enjoy listening to it, all the better.
JamBase | New York
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