REVIEW: JD Simo – Mind Control (2021)


Nashville-based singer, songwriter, and guitarist JD Simo`s new album ‘Mind Control’ is a little more experimental than his previous releases but still retains that blues heart. The singer himself states “Over lockdown my buddies and I were really obsessed with Afrobeat and North Mississippi trance stuff. So, lots of Fela, Tony Allen and Junior Kimbrough, but also Fred McDowell, Jessie Mae Hemphill, CeDell Davis and R.L. Burnside too. That mix really permeates a lot of the album. Those Afrobeat grooves with that raw sludgy thing on top. It happened naturally and without preconception.” JD`s new release utilised the talents of long-time collaborator Adam Abrashoff on drums and bassist Adam Bednarik.

The album opens with `Go Away Satan` with a rolling drumbeat and skewed guitar chords as the singer quietly shares the lyrics of this really hypnotic funky trippy almost Hendrix flavoured exorcism of sound. I have to say I really got caught up in this almost hallucinogenic journey of sound. We enjoy a similar offering with `I`m In Love` which does seem to have an almost distant quietly shared stream of consciousness shared atop a mind bending soundscape.

`Let Go` has some delightful old style blues guitar riffs and is as near to a straight up blues blaster as you`ll get on this record. A repeated echoey guitar riff leads us into the dreamlike `Know It All` which became wonderfully trance like almost psychedelic at times. A number to just get on board and allow it to take you to wherever it`s going. The guitar solo at the end is stunning.

`Want What I Don’t Have` has that feeling of coming out of a deep stupor or malaise where you`re still a little dazed. JD`s vocals are delivered in a matter of fact style initially but become almost pleading as this track evolves. There`s some intricate guitar chords and the song almost grinds to a halt towards the end allowing the singer to voice his inner thoughts. A number that seems to touch on mental health struggles.  It felt that `That’s When You Know That You’re Down` sounded almost out of kilter as if the drummer were playing a different song to the guitarist but that was the joy in this piece. A sort of jazzy like drum and bass sound with the guitar notes being picked and vocals that seem to float in and out. Practically Captain Beefheart meets Frank Zappa.

`Fucked Up` is a strange but compelling listen with a deep fuzzy dirty bass line, a brushed drumbeat, and distant vocals then a sweet melodic chorus. We have a cracking bluesy guitar solo two thirds of the way through before it returns to it`s previous form for the last few bars.  I thought `Devil Is Always Watchin’` was quite similar to `Fucked Up` but a bit more laid back and slightly darker.
`People Pleaser` I would argue is probably not. Another curious mix match which opens with a throbbing bass, shuffled drums and skewed guitar chords before vocals are briefly added to the pot. The guitar then leads us along this edgy path with vocals heading in and out before it all quietly fades out. The album closes out with `Recovery` which is another intriguing listen which seems be a blues based offering in the loosest sense.

‘Mind Control’ according to what I read is “a positive theme of growth, self-help and struggles with addiction and mental health lay alongside a haunting, low down musical landscape. It’s raw, funky, and real. Such is life.” and that in essence is a fair summation.

I`m sure you could read an awful lot into this release and it came together out of a time when we were all dealing with a global pandemic. It feels like the trio got together to flush out some demons, frustrations. maybe with life and it`s limitations and was probably quite cathartic for the band.

At times it`s not an easy listen but I found a lot of beauty and positivity within the more I chose to air it. I suggest you may well do as well.

Rating 8.5/10

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