Chris Juergensen is a musical dynamo. He has a new release out right now that shows two sides to his music, the fine tuned studio side, and his raw, visceral live playing.
Have you ever noticed how many blues, or blues rock acts are around? Go to just about any town and you will have a few places that are hosting local blues bands. Not to knock these bands, but the reason is that passable blues is pretty easy. Learn the basic structure, a few chords, and the “blues box” scale and with a little practice, a guitarist is on his way to blues heaven–locally at least.
There are some folks, however, that have taken blues and blues rock to a whole new dimension. Chris Juergensen belongs in that group.
You see, Chris is not only a kick ass player, he is also a teacher. Chris is an instructor atÂ the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, and Director of Education at the Tokyo School of Music. So what you get with Chris is a guy with an obvious love of blues based rock guitar, but with technical knowledge of how the instrument works that is a bit above the “blues box” mindset. 😉 Imagine Steve Vai, if Vai cared more about the song and the music rather than just pushing the guitar to it’s limits.
In listening to his albums, you soon realize that Chris puts his knowledge to good use, breaking away from norms and adding an amazing, shred-like ability into his passages. That having been said, everything he records remains tight. Chris never uses two notes where one will work better. It is that mix of mastery, ability, and control that makes his music so damned tasty.
That mix of mastery and control also puts him in fine company. Never a show-off, he always puts the song first. This reminds one of artists such as David Gilmore, Carlos Santana, Jeff Beck, and yes, you knew it was coming, Stevie Ray Vaughn.
So, what about the latest release, Strange Phenomena?
This is classic Juergensen. The studio tracks are tight, the songwriting brilliant, and the live tracks are amazing. I compared Chris to some great players above, and the live tracks on this CD just enhance that comparison. Chris’ playing makes me want to spend a little more time with my Les Paul–in the bedroom guitarist tradition–just trying to get it right.
Let’s take a look at the tracks.
The album starts off with The Spirit, a very traditional sounding blues tune, full of creamy toned guitar mixed perfectly with a great organ riff and Chris’ soulful vocals. You know you are in for a treat with this song.
That leads into Long Time Wondering. Chris gave podcasters an early look at this one, and it just gets better with time. Remember that control I talked about before? Well, you would expect Chris to jump right into a rocking number after the more traditional opening. No way, in a perfect move he instead drops this soulful number on us. This is the kind of song that makes you want to close your eyes and drift away a bit, but not too far, the gut shot is next.
That gut shot is titled Nothing’s Got Me. Chris starts this with a terrific riff that channels a bit of Eddie Van Halen, back when he was still relevant. The guitar chops are top notch here. After that opening riff, this song drops into one of the tightest rhythms yet. By the time the song reintroduces the opening riff, you realize the solo is about to come up and give you the aforementioned gut shot. I keep coming back to the word tight, but it fits.
The next tune gives you a bit of a break. Living the Lie is a mid-tempo rocker that fits perfectly into the mix. If your foot is not tapping along with this tune, you may need to see a doctor as your groove gene is missing.
The studio tracks finish up in high style with Blood on the Streets, and Chris is channeling his inner New Orleans mojo here. A perfect way to finish up the in studio pieces, this is raw, dirty, and fun. Growing up just south of New Orleans, this was the sound of the music that surrounded me, but with that added Juergensen touch. It is tunes like this that keeps Chris Juergensen’s Blues cred in fine standing. The best thing I can say is that this tune just oozes that just right feel.
After Blood in the Streets, the album kicks into the live tracks, starting with the tune that introduced most folks in podcasting to Chris, House on the Hill. This track is just amazing, nuff said.
Boot Hill is up next, finding Chris back in familiar blues territory. The track order shows that Chris knows how to take us on a journey. Following the the in your face House on the Hill with this tune keeps the defined flow going. This is an album that should be played straight through, no random shuffle, just follow the path laid out and enjoy.
The next live dittie is Chris’ ode to his daughter, Sweet Melissa. Chris wrote this song while in Japan, thinking of his daughter in L.A., and you can feel his lyrics in this tune. The fact that it also has one of his best solos is just icing on the cake. This is a great tune.
Tell Me a Story is up next and I am running out of adjectives here. Another traditional blues piece that has Chris at the top of his game.
And then it all wraps up, too soon at that, with Born to Love You. This is one of Chris’ strongest vocal performances, showing another weapon in his arsenal. Not only can he pull off his guitar live like nobodies business, his live vocals are dead on as well. To say that the guitar solo here is rock solid would be overkill. This just caps a great album in style.
Well, that is about it. As I wrote before, it is over all too soon, but that is what the repeat function is for. Chris Juergensen delivers 100% with this release, which should see his audience grow to greater numbers.
If you are at all a fan of great guitar, blues, or rock, this album is screaming to be added to your collection. The only way to stop that screaming is to replace it with the wonderful wail of Juergensen guitar. Go get your copy today!
If that were not enough, check out these videos of Chris doing his thing over at the Xotic guitars site. Just amazing!