Glenn Alexander has a unique role in the current lineup of Southside Johnny’s Asbury Jukes. Like all his bandmates, he can effortlessly execute a musical encyclopedia of classic blues, rock, soul and R&B riffs. But when called upon to take a guitar solo, he expands the Jukes’ sound with his unpredictable progressive-rock or jazz-fusion excursions. Having him in the band for the last decade has definitely added another weapon to the Jukes’ arsenal.
Alexander also leads his own band, Shadowland, in which all that mastery and all that experimentation is on ample display. Also, some quirks that he doesn’t get to show with the Jukes.
The band’s second album, Knockin’ on the Door, has just been released (following a self-titled 2017 debut album). The Jukes’ current horn section (saxophonist John Isley, trumpeter Chris Anderson and trombonist Neal Pawley) is on it, in its entirety, with Isley and Anderson handling the horn arrangements. Jukes drummer Tom Seguso also plays on three tracks.
The band’s secret weapon, though, is Alexander’s daughter, Oria, who sings backup vocals and takes the lead on “I Had to Go Thru Hell to Get to Heaven,” a rawly emotional survivor’s anthem that is one of the album’s highlights. (You can listen to this song and two other standout tracks in the embedded videos, below.)
Glenn Alexander sings lead on the rest of the songs, as well as writing or co-writing all but two of them. (The others are the Booker T. Jones/William Bell-written standard “Born Under a Bad Sign” and Frankie Miller’s introspective “I Can’t Change It”). Alexander’s singing voice reminds me a little of Joe Walsh’s. It’s got a bit of a quaver to it, and Alexander often projects a sense of good-natured bemusement. It’s a very likeable voice.
The horn-heavy arrangements of “Knockin’ on the Door” and “I’m Gonna Drown Standin’ Up” and the funky, good-time beat of “Laudie Laudie Lee” should definitely appeal to Jukes fans. These all come early on the album, whose second half is more subdued, and more personal.
Alexander — who grew up in Maize, Kansas — builds “Hind Tit Blues” around a phrase that only a one-time farmboy like himself would know, and sings sentimentally about his family in “My Brother,” and even more sentimentally about Maize in “My Home Town.”
The final track, the bittersweet “I’m the Only One,” is, I think, a song that any veteran traveling musician will be able to relate to. Alexander sings of “castles made of sand and the neon purple dancers,” and pledges, “Gonna keep jukin’ and jivin’ … don’t know what else to do.”
For more on Alexander, Shadowland and “Knockin’ on the Door,” visit glennalexander.com.
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