The Eclectic Soul Story
Interview with Oscar Jordan
Is Eclectic Soul supposed to be a concept album? It has a lot of styles.
It's a reflection of my songwriting and guitar playing. I chose a producer (Phil Bloch) that could help me unify the over all sound from song to song. Even though there's variety, it doesn't sound like the songs should be on different albums. I like jazz, heavy rock, 70's funk, The Beatles, The Staple Singers, and all kinds of music. When I write, those influences come out. I guess if there's a concept it's that a good album doesn't have to be so genre specific to be good.
Are you concerned with trying to market a jazz bossa, a funk rock, and an acoustic blues song all on the same album?
It's an honest record. Eclectic Soul is who I am.
You have a funky Lenny Kravitz meets Sly Stone thing going on, a power ballad; then you switch gears and have a back porch acoustic blues, then an r&b song. There's a bluesy-fusion instrumental, a song that Santana could cover, a funny gospel ballad, then a smooth jazzy tune. There's a Hendrixy rock song, then a psychedelic blues with wailing guitars. You end it with something that Tuck & Patti could perform.
So what's wrong with that?
I'm just pointing out that the songs might be too different from each other for your average Joe Six Pack CD buyer.
There's something for everybody. There was a time when every song on an album didn't have to sound like each other. They had stylistic leaps because artists were open to all kinds of influences. If you pick up an album like The Beatles' Let It Be, or an album by Traffic, or Led Zeppelin III, Eclectic Soul is right in the same ballpark in terms of the songs having lots of diversity.
A lot of people think of you as a blues man because of your first album Mister Bad Luck.
I may have thought I was at one time but I never actually was. I was a guitar player playing blues, who had a blues band, and wrote a blues album. Big difference.
Real blues men express themselves within that idiom exclusively. It's what they're about. You can feel it. You don't get the same feeling when you watch a guitarist playing blues who can switch hats and start playing be-bop or neo-classical metal. Real blues men play blues exclusively, which is why they'll always play it better than someone who has tons of chops outside of blues. You have to live in that world. I saw Lurrie Bell playing at Kingston Mines in Chicago one time and he altered the molecular structure of the air in the room. It was the most amazing thing. I realized I wasn't a blues man. Lurrie Bell is a blues man. It was a major epiphany for me.
But there's some great blues playing on Eclectic Soul.
There's a difference between blues and bluesy. Rock fans think of Eclectic Soul as a blues album, and blues fans think of it as a rock album. I dig all kinds of guitar playing. I love Edward Van Halen and Django Reinhardt just as much as I love Albert King and Albert Collins. There's no facade. A blues man will reference The Three Kings in some way without outside influences. It's a discipline. I'm just being true to myself by not calling myself a blues man. I want to play more than just blues.
What was the idea behind Mister Bad Luck?
I love blues. I was born in Chicago. I grew up hearing Buddy Guy and Jimmy Johnson. At the time I had it in my mind that blues was a canvas that would allow me to paint pictures with my guitar and lyrics. I got into deep classic blues and British blues but I also got into the forward thinking side. New blues. I went through a heavy Robben Ford, Jimi Hendrix phase and started studying new ways to push the form with various influences to find my own voice. Mister Bad Luck ended up being a reaction to blues albums I hated. I would listen to blues albums and hear three shuffles in a row, two slow blues, one minor blues, a shuffle in another key, and so on. I wanted Mister Bad Luck to be a good listen with variety. I wanted to write an album that covered more than one facet of the blues.
I can hear the connection between Mister Bad Luck and Eclectic Soul. They both have a lot of variety.
Right. Blues is bigger than any single style. Miles Davis playing "All Blues" is just as valid as Muddy Waters playing "Got My Mojo Workin." On Mister Bad Luck I wrote a jazz blues, funk blues, New Orleans, Chicago, West Side, acoustic, and even a jump blues. The album didn't get one bad review. I'm very proud of it.
Why aren't you playing more traditional blues?
I prefer my own material. It's much more honest. What I want to do has wider creative boundaries. Hardcore blues fans want a blues juke box of songs they know. Not an artist. If they see you nailing T-Bone Walker note for note and singing like you fell off a cotton truck, they'll pat you on the back and tell you you're keeping the blues alive. In my mind that goes against everything the founding blues patriarchs strived for. Personal identity was paramount. Who in the 21st century grew up on a strict diet of blues? We all heard The Beatles, Motown, Miles Davis, or Prince, yet blues musicians will delete that entire influence from their music and mimic some old black guy from 50 years ago who was only singing his biography. I play rock now because it's open ended. Blues will always be my home base but I like having the option of not playing blues.
Who are the other people involved on Eclectic Soul?
Phil Bloch was the producer. He's a very talented producer and drummer. He's worked with people like Soloman Burke, Terry Evans and Ry Cooder. He really hit the ball out of the park on this project. He and engineer Andrew Bush should take credit for making an incredible sounding record on a very low budget. I'm very happy with it. It has a warm, organic, timeless quality. Bass player Randal Yamamoto, and keyboard player Alex Lane and I had been playing together for a while with a different drummer. Randal brought in drummer Nick Karvon for the recording. Nick sealed the new line up. Randal had the funk and the jazz chops, Alex had that old school B3 style down cold, and Nick had the Elvin Jones and the funk. Versatility was the main thing. These guys can play anything. It's the best line up I've ever had.
There's a lot of blazing guitar. Do you think at some point it was over kill?
No. Some of the songs don't even have guitar solos. One of the solos isn't even mine. T.J. Sullivan played dobro on "Rough Neck." He helped me finish writing that song. We also co-wrote "Like a Lover Should," and "These Blues." As for the other material, I was very conscious of playing for the song. So was my producer Phil Bloch. He kept me in line but allowed me to be myself. When it was time to burn, I burned. When it was time to lay back, I laid back. I'm playing different styles as well, so it's never guitar over kill. It's a singer songwriter record with killer guitar.
On "Never Been Hurt" there's a 70's gospel rock flavor. On "Morning Affirmation," that's pretty much my style; blues jazz-rock with cool phrasing. My solo on "Hendrix T-Shirt" reminds me of Neal Schon. He's a hero of mine. "Loretta" is 100% from my soul. It's an instrumental that I wrote for my late grandmother. It's a funeral song about grief. It was recorded live in the studio, and it was all about feeling my grief. The CD is dedicated to her. "You and I" is an homage to Carlos Santana. When I wrote it I was thinking Richie Havens. It started out an acoustic song but there's an Al DiMeola influence and tons of me in there too. On "I Liked You Better When You Were Drinking" I'm playing straight a head nasty blues. Its actually a tongue in cheek secular gospel song I wrote for my cousin Karen Dilworth. Thats her doing the lead vocal. "Be Cool" is laid back blues-jazz guitar. It has an "Up From the Skies" vibe.
Looks like you're bringing back the guitar solo.
It's here to stay but the song always comes first. "Sing Your Song" has a lot of my Hendrix and 80's heavy rock influence. It's about over coming life's day-to-day struggles to remain a creative person. It's also the only tune that has any resemblance to shredding. On "Ruination" that's my idea of a psychedelic blues western. I believe I was in a Clint Eastwood Unforgiven mood at the time. It's one of my favorite westerns. It's a story of loss, revenge, and doom. No solos but very trippy. By the last song, which is "These Blues," we're in a mellow acoustic space with my cousin Karen Dilworth singing with me. It's a great way to end the record.
Copyright 2006 - Oscar Jordan