Messin' With The Blues

Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes

Leroy Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Despite being a diehard music lover for at least 25 years that I can remember, there are hundreds, nay, thousands of bands whose work I am not familiar with, or whom I've never gotten to know. One such group is Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, a modern R&B/rock group who parlayed an early friendship with Bruce Springsteen into their own moderately successful career.

But for one reason or another, John Lyons and crew were never able to reach the level of superstardom, and have almost been relegated to "where are they now" status for true diehard rock fans. Their latest disc, Messin' With The Blues, might not be the disc to break them out of that anonymous rut, but it has the potential to be a disc which will showcase the band in a light that many people might not have expected.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Listening to this disc, one has to wonder if Lyons and his bandmates could have released this on a label like Alligator, which is known for their slogan of "Genuine Houserockin' Music". With a liberal mix of blues, old-school r&b and a splash of rock here and there, the band certainly creates a vibe like I've heard on many artists under the Alligator banner.

What Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes do need, however, is a little more of a hook on Messin' With The Blues. Tracks like "Tell 'Em I'm Broke" and "Cadillac Jack" all have one thing or another that lock the songs into the listener's memories, and demonstrate that after about 25 years of slugging it out, Lyons and company are still hanging in there and giving it the good fight. Likewise, a song such as "Satan's Shoes" sounds like it could have been lifted from a John Hiatt album, and is a nice match.

But these catchy moments aren't as evident on Messin' With The Blues as one would like them to be. It isn't that this is a bad disc, but it is one which sometimes isn't the easiest to get comfortable with. Tracks like "Living With The Blues," "Sinful" and "Messin' Around With The Blues" need those moments which would lock the listener in, and make an hour pass by as if it were a minute. Mind you, it's a good enough disc... but these little touches could have made it a better disc.

The only real mistake on Messin' With The Blues is the New Orleans funeral-feel of "Mother Earth," a track which is a real jones killer. I guess if this style of music is your cup of tea, then, hey, be my guest. But it doesn't fit well with the vibe of the album, and should have been dropped from this particular disc.

Still, Messin' With The Blues has enough moments to keep the listener focused, and is proof that Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes are worth paying some attention to. Who knows? Such a disc might inspire one to start examining their backcatalog - and something tells me that would suit Lyons and crew just fine.

Rating: B-

User Rating: B-


The name of the band is the Asbury Jukes, not Dukes.

I would suggest starting with a couple of their earlier albums, like I Don't Want to Go Home or This Time It's For Real.
Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes have been around for years and produced half a dozen great albums. This isn't one of them, but 'Tell 'Em I'm Broke' and 'Cadillac Jack' do give a flavour of why they have continued to tour and make albums for so long.

I agree with 'wetcoast' start with 'I don't want to go home'. It's a classic.

© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Leroy Records, and is used for informational purposes only.