On 29 January 2016, Nashville trio SIMO will release their new album Let Love Show The Way on Provogue/Mascot Label Group (Joe Bonmasssa, Black Stone Cherry, Monster Truck, Walter Trout). SIMO have just released a new track via Classic Rock Magazine called “I’ll Always Be Around”.
Modern blues torchbearer Joe Bonmassa brought SIMO to the attention of the Mascot Label Group stating that frontman and Guitarist JD Simo is “one of the best out there right now”, and with this new album it’s not hard to see why.
Simo’s teaser track “I’ll always Be Around” struck me as as being something you would hear if Led Zeppelin got into a fight with Eric Clapton and Robert Cray stepped in to break it up. It is sonically rich, dynamic, true to blues form and really hits the heights of Southern Blues inspired Rock ‘N’ Roll. It is a treat.
As if creeping from the Southern swamps and mist-soaked cotton fields, SIMO’s Stranger Blues is the perfect table setter for the Nashville power trio’s vibrant new LP, Let Love Show the Way. The song is a blueprint for reinvigorating the fusion of jazz improvisation, downhome blues and classic R&B, as well as these genres’ psychedelic Brit Invasion and countrified Southern-rock manifestations. The rest of the record follows suit, a souped-up vehicle transporting the band on a deeply satisfying, off-the-cuff musical journey.
Let Love Show The Way is a frenetic collection of songs that consist of both live favourites and new tracks. Starting off the album, Stranger Blues is a cover of Elmore James classic but see’s SIMO add their furious freewheeling flavour giving it a runaway train feel to it, “I love Elmore” says JD, “I dig the lyrics “Sometimes I wonder, why they treat a stranger so… they all should remember, they gonna reap just what they sow.”
Continuing to steam headlong into the album we are treated to brand new songs; Two Timing Woman which is three rip-roaring minutes written the day before it was cut in around 15 minutes. I Lied was written during recording and is about lying when asked if everything is ok, “We all wanna put up a good front,” the singer adds. “I inserted one of my favourite Ginsberg essays, “Why is God Love Jack”. A letter Allen Ginsberg had written to Jack Kerouac.”
Bursting with live favourites Can’t Say Her Name has been in the repertoire for a couple of years and is about unspoken love for a woman from a man who is already in a relationship. Whilst Please is a spiralling upbeat Beatles meets Motown stomper about love, indebted to the fab fours Please Please Me. Long May You Sail changes tone a little as the guitar squeals around the pounding rhythm section telling the tale of saying goodbye to an old friend. Continuing the tales of anguish I’ll Always Be Around is about not wanting to let go of someone, but having to do so much with as much dignity as you can as the highly charged and emotional as JD Simo sings “go on don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine eventually, take your things and say your goodbyes, I don’t want to be the one to hold you back and change your mind.”
Becky’s Last Occupation is a play on words based around the bank bail out in the US. Rather Die In Vain gives the chance for the band to go wild with improvisation calling on the power to struggle against your internal darkness. Today I’m Here is a subtle and tranquil breather on the album and was written for a dear friend of the band based around a progression he had been playing.
Let Love Show The Way is an abstract song, “Lennon had it right”, JD, reflects, “Love really is all we need. I was writing more about things I thought were dreamy or somewhat mental picture for the first verses. Then the notion of Love being what we should let govern our actions or decisions was where I took it. I’m a peaceful guy and I’m proud to have a song that has content like this. I think we need more of it!” Jamming is a huge part of what SIMO do best and Ain’t Doing Nothing is a jam from the Big House Sessions. “It was the start of the 2nd day of recording there and Adam and Elad starting playing that groove and I walked in the room and picked up Duane Allman’s old Goldtop and what you hear is what happened. Good way to start the day!”
Please Be With Me, another cover, is a beautiful way to close the album, the last song to be recorded at the Big House. “I wanted to do something appropriate since we were in the Allman’s old house and all but I didn’t want to do something too obvious or overdone. This is a song that the band Cowboy did with Duane not long before he died. It was on the Duane Allman Anthology in the 70’s. So as a peace offering to that lovely place I sat on the steps looking right at Duane’s old room and sang and played it. My voice was torn up from days of singing and I like how frail I sound on it now. I had given all I had to give and I was very vulnerable at that moment and I think it fits.”
Cut entirely live in full, unbroken takes—vocals and solos included—the sound is primal, sweltering and immediate. “We live and die by the take,” says singer-guitarist JD Simo. “We don’t edit, and if there are overdubs, they’re minimal. I want it to be unaffected and pure. For me, the music that always resonates most is when a performance is captured. That’s what I love, and that’s what we go for.”
The first album ever recorded at Macon, Ga.’s Big House—the communal home of the Allman Brothers Band during their late ‘60s/early ‘70s heyday—Let Love Show the Way finds SIMO not just reveling in the hallowed space’s unique mojo and history, but taking it to a fresh and inspired place. As a musical unit, Simo, his longtime drummer Adam Abrashoff and bassist Elad Shapiro have an undeniable chemistry, taken to even greater heights with JD playing Duane Allman’s 1957 gold-top Les Paul for every track on the record. This is the same six-string heard on the first two Allman Brothers LPs, the same storied guitar that delivered the unforgettable riff on Derek & the Dominoes’ Layla. JD is now part of an elite group of artists—including Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes and Wilco’s Nels Cline—who share the rare honor of having wielded this talismanic instrument.
“There’s definitely a magical element to the recording,” Simo says of Let Love Show the Way. “The vibe of the Big House, using Duane’s guitar, plus all the touring we’d done leading up to it, all the refinement of the material on the road—it was a perfect storm.”
This choice to record at this historic location is a nod to JD’s lifelong reverence and respect for the musical pioneers who have come before him. When he was just three years old, seeing The Blues Brothers and Elvis Presley’s ’68 comeback special changed his life. “I was transfixed,” he says. “With The Blues Brothers, you’ve got John Lee Hooker with Muddy Waters’ band, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, James Brown, Chaka Khan right after she made one of my favorite records of all time with Rufus, Rags to Riches. Not to mention some of the greatest rhythm & blues musicians to ever walk the planet—Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy from Chess, that incredible original horn section from Saturday Night Live, Willie Hall from Stax, who played with Isaac Hayes. I mean, it’s a comedy and it’s funny, but as far as exposure to some really heavy music—I wanted to be Steve Cropper, I wanted to be John Lee Hooker. And it was the same with the Elvis special—he’s in the black leather suit, still good looking and charming and singing his ass off. Seeing The Blues Brothers and that Elvis comeback special made me want to play music.”
JD Simo – vocals/guitar
Adam Abrashoff – Drums
Elad Shapiro – Bass