Jay E. & Easy Street

Traveling Riverside Blues

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Traveling Riverside Blues is meant to be a humorous title for this little-known blues-rock release, which was recorded in Riverside, CA, in 1998. Those who are seriously into the blues know that "Traveling Riverside Blues" is a famous standard, but that gem isn't on this CD -- Jay E. & Easy Street chose that title in order to be clever, and most of the songs were written by Jay himself. The emphasis on original material is admirable -- these days, some bluesmen are content to function as repertory groups and stick to overdone Willie Dixon, Jimmy Reed, or Muddy Waters standards that blues fans have heard time and time again. You won't hear Jay E. & Easy Street providing generic performances of "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man" and "I'm Ready" before hitting you with equally knee-jerk versions of "Big Boss Man," "Got My Mojo Working," and "Baby, What You Want Me to Do." Unfortunately, most of Jay E.'s own songs are unremarkable. There are a few memorable selections -- most notably, "Rich Man's Ex-Wife" and "Little Red Car" (not to be confused with Prince's "Little Red Corvette"). But most of the material is average and mediocre, not to mention clichéd and predictable. Lead singer/producer Jay is content to rely on the usual Chicago blues and blues-rock clichés, and he doesn't bring a lot of conviction to his songs. Nonetheless, the CD's best tracks indicate that blues fans shouldn't write him off just yet -- and that they might want to keep an eye on him and see what develops in the future.

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