Jon Strahl Band
Heartache and Toil
As a teenager Jon Strahl’s musical experience was similar to our own. “I grew up in a house with music, there was always something new on the turntable and it was almost always rock and roll…but what really hit me…was this Sunday night radio show on WTTS called Blues Sunday…it featured all the real icons, from Charley Patton through Muddy and Wolf…I was like ten or eleven years old when I was listening to this and, when I heard it, it was like from outer space but it also felt like home…there was something elemental and universal about the emotion that immediately resonated with me.” The Indianapolis based Jon Strahl Band was formed in 2011. They released their well-received debut EP “Can’t Look Back”; and followed up with local area appearances at venues including the legendary “Slippery Noodle Inn”. The band followed up in 2014 with the release of their first full length album “The Ladder”.
The band features Strahl, guitar and vocals; Bill Mallers, keyboards; Nick Mallers, drums and percussion, and bassist Mitch Millhoff. Also featured is the horn section of Joshua Silbert, saxophones and arrangements; Bruce Knepper, trumpet; and Charlie Krone, trombone. The album is recorded, mixed and mastered by Tyler Watkins and Alex Kerscheval at Postal Recording in Indianapolis.
The twelve originals are all written by Strahl who flavors his blues with rock n’ roll. Strahl’s lead guitar intro opens the funky “Hey Yeah, All Right” with the help of the horns as he sings “I want your love, I need your love”. The rhythm section of bassist Millhoff and drummer Mallers are perfect as they enable Strahl. “How Long” is another rock’ n tune featuring Strahl’s guitar and some mind expanding rhythm.
The title track, “Heartache and Toil”, is an in the pocket groove, with the band chiming in on the chorus “won’t you save me…deliver me from darkness”; as Strahl takes a jazzier solo. My favorite “The Right Thing” reminds me of Little Feat; “I was trying to do the right thing, but it doesn’t feel, like the right thing to do tonight” as Bill Mallers piano completes the production.
“Lose My Mind” features a modified New Orleans’ beat, and the lyric “I got to find a way to lose my mind”, before Strahl nails his solo as Bill Mallers takes off on organ. “Can’t Look Back” is the reprised title track from their 2011 EP while the rhythm section takes us to church.
Another favorite “Leave Me Alone” features a funked out Booker T. vibe, a soulful Muscle Shoals horn arrangement, and some great percussion from Nick. The rock’ n “The Only Ones”, features the lyric “if I can’t find the right words to say, I’ll keep tryin’ every day…you’re the only one that I need”, with another great horn arrangement. Strahl’s soulful “Day After Day”, is another great vocal.
On “So Real” Strahl plays the intro on an acoustic before the band joins in. He sings “back to where we once belonged” before switching to an electric guitar to complete his solo. Strahl plays solo acoustic on the beautiful instrumental closer “Indiana Moonshine”.
This impressive album from the Jon Strahl Band should receive considerable “air” on blues radio.