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Pump It Up, Boneyard, Brother I’m Hungry, Get’cha GoGo Juice, Beg Steal Or Borrow, Step Into My Life, Bringing Back The Home, 9-5, Love On One Condition

A new album from UK-born, New Orleans-based R&B pianist and another exemplary love-letter to his adopted city. Across each of these nine beautifully sung and gorgeously played numbers, the various strands of Louisiana music is compellingly mixed into a gumbo stew of rhythm & blues, soul, funk, rock and more. 

Again produced by the multi-Grammy Award-winner, John Porter, and supported by some of the best local musicians the city has to offer (including horn charts from Allen Toussaint, Cleary’s obvious musical touch-stone), this album exudes class throughout. It is also a beautifully balanced set, offering up plenty of variety for John’s warm and expressive vocals and gorgeous piano playing and plenty of opportunities for top class musicians to shine.  

The album gets off to a riotous start with Pump It Up, an irresistibly funky good-time dance number which successfully combines an enjoyable ska rhythm with some sumptuous horn charts and John’s own pumping piano trills.  The next track, Boneyard, is driven forward by a swamp-funk rhythm reminiscent of all those great records by The Meters and Neville Brothers. After which, things slow down (for a while, at least) with Brother, I’m Hungry, a world-weary reflection on life with some mighty-fine Bobby Womack-like vocals. On Step Into My Life, the vocals again impress - in the hands of a less distinguished and tasteful singer, the romantic sentiments of the ballad could easily have descended into mush but Cleary’s singing make this one of the many highlights of the album

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the album is that, despite this being his first set of original songs in over ten years, the album conveys a sense of being a collection of old-school New Orleans classics. Lend an ear towards the title track, Get’cha GoGo Juice and you would swear that this party had been blessed by the spirits of the city’s illustrious cast of long-lost musical legends as well as the physical gifts of those who remain.

With albums as good as this, the time is surely getting near to John Cleary becoming better known for his own records than just as a go-to session man or member of Bonnie Raitt’s touring bands.

If you enjoy the unique sounds of New Orleans, past and present, then this album is highly recommended.

Review Date: August 2015

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