Primarily known for his work with the late Colonel Bruce Hampton, AJ Ghent — or j-ent as he prefers to be known — is an Atlanta-based lap steel virtuoso whose penchant for blues, funk, indie, jam and rock is providing him with a stellar reputation all his own. With his solo debut, The Neo Blues Project, Ghent betrays his ambitions by playing all the instruments and deferring only occasionally to sister Tiffany and wife Marla for their backing vocals. Though it only boasts six songs, it’s diverse and distinctive all at the same time.
As if those accomplishments weren’t enough, Ghent also makes it a point to come across as both sassy and suggestive with his choice of material. “Do The Rump!,” as an obvious example, is a sexy romp that makes the singer’s intents all too clear, while “Wash Ya Hair” is similarly didactic in its combination of funk and frenzy. Yet when he opts to notch up the intensity, as with the aptly titled “Power,” it’s also clear he’s committed to creating both drive and determination. Likewise, album closer “Gonna Rock” channels any number of rock ‘n’ roll heroes of days gone by, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent chief among them. That song alone gives this initial effort the grand send-off that it deserves.
To be sure, there are mellower moments to be had as well. “Mercy” and “Long Lost Friend” are cast in introspection, each a soulful serenade dwelling on the labor of love and the shattered promises that come about when feelings are left unsaid. Happily, though, all’s well as far as Ghent’s own prospects are concerned. The Neo Blues Project makes for an auspicious introduction.