Jon Cleary Pops the Sounds of the Big Easy Via ‘Dyna-Mite’ (ALBUM REVIEW)


Grammy award winner Jon Cleary recently put out a live solo album that featured deep covers of his adopted cities musical pioneers. He has ingested those influences for years and now releases his follow up of originals titled Dyna-Mite, shifting gears and incorporating the wide-ranging styles of his beloved New Orleans.

The highlight of the record arrives directly out of the gate as the title track is an explosive party song that is infectious with grooving drums, chicken scratch guitars and deep bass slides. “Dyna-Mite” was written with Ella Fitzgerald in mind and she would have enjoyed the shaking tambourine, tight vibrant horns and call/response backing vocals calling to mind a barn-burning late night get down; an instant classic in a town full of them.

After the jubilant smile-inducing opener things slow down with the less successful “Skin in the Game” an R&B number with thing sounding percussion. Recorded between Music Shed Studios, The Parlor and Cleary’s own Funk Headquarters in the Bywater, there is a varying level of success tied directly to the style of music Cleary and company are tackling.

The mid-tempo grooving numbers of “Unputdownable” and the ready to be covered by Bonnie Raitt, “All Good Things” are confident while “21st Century Gypsy Lover Man” (Co-written with Taj Mahal) is an old staple of Cleary’s live show and delivers with its huge chorus. “Big Greasy” is an intriguing number blending second line Nola feels with reggae; while not an out an out success it is intriguing enough to go back to for multiple listens.

Two of the better efforts are the gospel/soul influenced “Best Ain’t Good Enough” showcasing huge supporting vocals and “Frenchman Street Blues” an affecting slow weeper which Cleary wrote for a friend who helped him build his home studio. While Dyna-Mite focuses on Cleary more as a songwriter and bandleader, “Frenchman Street Blues” reminds that he is a world-class piano player.

New Orleans music from all of the town’s legends, like Dr. John and James Booker is elevated in the live setting and Cleary’s numbers are no different. These tracks will flourish on the Abita soaked stages around the Big Easy but as they are presented here, Dyna-Mite pops.

Photo by Danielle Moir

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