Freed from working with major labels, Southside Johnny Lyon began making some of the strongest albums of his career when he launched his own Leroy Records label in 2000 with the album Messin' with the Blues, and 2006's Into the Harbour finds him still sounding vibrant, soulful, and passionate 30 years into his recording career. Fronting a solid lineup of Jukes (featuring most of the horn players from the band's 1970s heyday), Lyon shows his age a bit on Into the Harbour, but in a positive way -- if his voice is a little grainier than it was in his youth, he's still a forceful R&B shouter of the first order, and while this music recalls the hard-edged Jersey Shore show band of the group's early days, the soul and blues influences are purer, with a maturity that reveals Lyon is putting his years of experience to good use. Lyon wrote four of the songs with keyboard man Jeff Kazee, and he hasn't sounded this open and comfortable as a tunesmith in ages, contemplating the passage of time on the title track, emulating classic Motown soul on "Dancing on the Edge of the World," and conjuring the sound of the Hi Records rhythm section on "The Time Between." Lyon has also grown as an interpretive singer, becoming more adventurous with his choices of outside material (and digging into the songbooks of Tom Waits, Richard Thompson, and Delbert McClinton to fine effect) while finding a voice and sound of his own in the work of other songwriters. And the straightforward production on Into the Harbour suits Lyon and his band beautifully -- these sessions sound clear and powerful without a veneer of slickness, and there's far more life in this album than most of the LPs Lyon cut for Mercury and Mirage in the 1980s. Into the Harbour finds Southside Johnny enjoying a surprising and resonant second wind as a recording artist, and it proves he's got a lot more to offer than many folks would expect in his fourth decade in rock & roll.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming