By David Bulley
At first glance, and upon starting the first song “She’s A Fighter,” one might believe that Wreckage Vol. 2 by Robert Jon & the Wreck is an album firmly and sweetly rooted in the tradition of American southern blues/rock. But you’d be wrong. The last three tracks on this album absolutely explore new territory, branch out and fuse funk, jazz, rock, blues and even classical conventions into amazing songs that give a context, fluency and direction to the entire album which forces us to see every song in a new light.
Wreckage Vol. 2 by Robert Jon & The Wreck is out September 30th via Joe Bonamassa’s KTBA Records. A collection of in-studio and live concert performances recorded from 2020-2022, the new album captures the energy and excitement of the band’s live shows. The album follows RJTW’s critically acclaimed studio album, Shine A Light On Me Brother.
The Southern California rockers have been releasing albums and winning awards since they formed in 2011. The band features Robert Jon Burrison (lead vocals, guitar), Andrew Espantman (drums, b. vocals), Steve Maggiora (keyboards, b. vocals), Henry James (lead guitar, b. vocals), and Warren Murrel (bass, b. vocals).
“She’s a Fighter” might have been a Lynyrd Skynyrd deep cut with jangly piano, heavy guitars and a slick bassline. Robert Jon Burrison’s voice, here and throughout the album, is an exercise in contradiction. Its raspy but pure, bluesy, and gritty, but possessing a purity that cuts through the midrange and soars. Technical, but free, precise, but it feels like the precision is accidental. (It’s not.) This is what one expects from a blues/rock genre album. It’s a great song.
The song, “Rescue Train” has a sweet bass line, which gives it an old timey feel with groove. Burrison’s vocals are soulful, vamping like the bluesy vocalist that he is. Sinfully good guitar by James comes into play along with the harmonies this band is known for.
Things start to get crazy with an almost outlandishly funky cover of “The Weight,” a song most people think they are content to never hear another cover of, but only because they haven’t heard this one. The up tempo funk interpretation just works. It honors the original, doesn’t obscure the original intention, but also does something completely different and special. The organ heavy, electric piano, jammy, funky fun, also features a sweet and melodic guitar solo in an album full of much more distorted and fuzzed out guitar sounds. I wish this was a single.
The song “Old Hotel Room” honors a tradition in blues music, the road song. At some point in their touring career every artist looks around an empty hotel room and writes a song about it. Bob Seger wrote “Turn The Page” and Robert Jon Burrison wrote “Old Hotel Room,” an excellent ballad.
There is virtually no difference between 80s southern rock, and 2020s power/pop/rock country music and “Dark Roses” is a perfect illustration of this idea. It’s a lovely ballad, which would just as easily fit in the repertoire of Skynyrd, or Montgomery Gentry. With a moving bass line and compelling drumming, the guitar solo stands out and adds to the narrative arc.
With “On The Run” the band starts moving away from Skynyrd and toward the Allman Brothers, with an expert slide guitar, and jangly cowboy barroom piano, just ripping out a good time and trading licks with the guitar. The band invests a little more in exploring their dynamic range as well as Robert sings “On the run and I ain’t comin’ back.”
And now that we’ve moved into the realm of the Allman Brothers, the instrumental “Cannonball” might be compositionally on par with “Jessica.” Borrowing heavily from classical composition, they set a musical theme early, expand it, then brilliantly explore variations dynamically and musically in a piece that is nonstop movement. Without vocals doing the melody, the musicians shine in a new light. In the best way, there are jazz riffs, blues riffs, funk influence and rock mastery. I could listen to this all day.
“Something To Remember Me By” feels like another instrumental. It has vocals, but the vocals are simply another expertly played instrument. They don’t carry the melody and the narrative arc as vocals do in most songs. But they do add significant color and texture to a song that hardly needs it but benefits greatly.
“Witchcraft” is another adventure in jazz/funk/blues/rock fusion. With a sweet guitar, more sweeping runs and more movement than other songs, it breaks free of the conventions of the genre. This song is a journey. Wow.
Pre-order Wreckage Vol. 2 Here
Watch “Rescue Train”