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Brother JT - Off Blue

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Artist: Brother JT

Album: Off Blue

Label: Birdman

Review date: Feb. 22, 2005

"It takes a lot to grin," laments John Terleskey, the artist known as Brother JT, but the alternative is worse. So he sings the content, if not the form, of the blues in an effort to keep his chin up.

"Off Blue's" 12 songs are steeped in the middle-aged awareness that fending off despair isn't a one-time battle, but an on-going Sysyphean effort. Maybe that's why he sounds so tired here; "Getting nowhere slow," he sings in another song, and these solitary home-recorded efforts sound like it. His won't-disturb-the-neighbors crooning trudges in step with lazily strummed acoustic guitar, sullen organ and an occasional leaden drumbeat.

Sometimes they echo the sounds of his elders; "Easier To Smile" sounds like mid-’60s Kinks after the steam-driven train has just about run out of coal, and "Son Of Man" mulls over the humanity in the worst humans over slowed-down "Let It Bleed" style backing. Sometimes they look ’em in the eye; "Father's Eyes" is about coming to terms with how much like our parents we really are, no matter what we want to think.

Taken one at a time, these songs are pretty solid, but the preponderance of slow tempos and minimal adornment make this a hard record to play all the way through. If you're already a fan, there's enough here to repay the time it'll take to get close to Off Blue. But if you're new to the Brother, consider starting elsewhere, maybe Come On Down (Drunken Fish) or Way To Go (Drag City).

By Bill Meyer

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