JD & the Straight Shot a five-piece from New York are a strange but heady mix of bluegrass, folksy lyrics peppered with cool jazz basslines and percussion. Their front man and singer is one Jim Dolan – famous for his ‘day job’ in his US business empire but here he presents himself as an ordinary Joe with his touring band.
Tonight they play The Forge in Camden: very much a ‘sit down looking cool round the table with drinks’ affair, with a strange mix of audience too – cool looking Camden types, smart ladies and guys in suits, and guys in hoodies with skeletons on. If the band were perplexed as I was by this, they did not show it by blasting into their trademark foot tapping bluesy Americana with great stomping vigour.
Erin Slaver, singer and violinist, stands out immediately. She is amazing to watch and is clearly an electrically charged focus for the audience. Not so much main man singer Jim Dolan whose influence is more like a benign father than an engaging front man (and indeed his son Aiden Dolan is a guitarist within the band so perhaps this is apt). However, despite the difference in energies between the band and the singer, the vocal harmonizing between them all – in particular with Erin – is quite something. Not to mention the strength of their collaborative song-writing. This can be left in no doubt no least because a lot of their material has been used (or in some cases almost used) in many feature films that employ bluegrass laced country melodies. Their track Hard To Find was featured in the film St Vincent which starred Bill Murray; and Violet’s Song was used in August Osage County starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. So kudos and credit where it is due, clearly the movie men have a hotline to this band.
It was pleasing to see enigmatic guitarist Marc Copely and Erin really getting into their performance and bringing the set to life. Stand out tracks from the evening were the energetic track Glide (inspired by Jim’s young 5 year old son and is about the happiness from simple things), the soul searching Better Find A Church featuring some really funky upright acoustic bass from Byron House, and the carnival-esque title track to their forthcoming album BallyHoo! (out February 26th).
The encore was a little strange as the band seemed a little uncertain whether to return to the stage- and the mic didn’t work at first for Jim– all ironed out for the final track to some enthusiastic applause from the eclectic audience.
In all, a warm entertaining music evening in a bit of a ‘cold fish’, strangely attended overly-lit venue. It will be interesting to see how the band fare in a more lively festival environment in the Summer where you can imagine the audience less self-consciously dancing along, can in hand, to JD & The Straight Shot’s rustic but well-crafted melodic Americana.
Set list: 1. Empty 2. Under that Hood 3. Violet’s Song 4. Nature’s Way 5. Perdition 6. Glide 7. Holy Water 8. Little White Lies 9. Hard to Find 10. Pink Cadillac 11. Better Find a Church 12. Don’t Waste My Time 13. Ballyhoo 14. Here He Comes 15. Midnight Run 16. Let it Roll