By: Michael Spawn
With the October 21st release of its latest studio venture, Secret World, Jellyroll & Delicious Dish have taken a swipe at the dubious notion that bar bands should stay in the bar.
A frequent presence on Columbia’s performance scene, the JR&DD business model is a humble but time-honored one: Get people in the door and keep them placated with songs they already like or love while generously peppering the setlist with original tunes that fit seamlessly in with the established favorites, unabashedly showcasing the influence of the artists who made the original songs possible in the first place. In short, it’s music for it’s own sake, playing for the love of the game--unpompous, void of ego or pretense.
So it is with Secret World. Produced by fellow Columbia music fixture Rev. Marv Ward, the eight original compositions (plus one reprise) that make up the record reveal a JR&DD firing on every cylinder. The songs of bandleader and primary writer Bentz Kirby, which tend toward the mellower side of country and folk-influenced rock, succeed because Kirby has the faith in them necessary to let them stand on their own merits, be they politically charged lyrics, singalong choruses, or stirring sentimentality. Due to a near-fatal cardiac episode five years ago, Kirby takes it easy on himself concerning his vocal work, which has replaced booming power with an easygoing sweetness that services the songs without trouble. The vocal thunder comes courtesy of vocalists May Evans Kirby and Jenn McCallister, who mostly do backup work but take the lead (and writing credit) on two of Secret World’s tracks, the jazzy, sultry “Emotional Glasses,” and the blues ballad “Take Your Coat,” respectively. As with Bentz’s songs, these two highlight the talents of their creators and recreate the relaxed atmosphere of the best JR&DD shows.
In all, Secret World is refreshing release from a band whose simple love of their craft and disdain for gimmickry is evident on every track.