November 27, 2021

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Review: Robert Jon & The Wreck ‘Shine A Light On Me Brother’

Robert Jon & The Wreck Shine A Light On Me Brother album cover

Robert Jon & The Wreck

By Martine Ehrenclou

A Southern California gem, Robert Jon & The Wreck are set to release their new album, Shine A Light On Me Brother on September 3, 2021. Written and recorded during the pandemic, Robert Jon Burrison and his Southern blues rockers self-produced the record along with co-producer Jeff Frickman. Always a treat to listen to, Robert Jon & The Wreck excavated joy, sorrow, love and love lost from the rubble of the pandemic lockdown to create their new record.

Since its inception in 2011, Robert Jon & The Wreck are no strangers to rave reviews and awards for their exceptional albums and fiery live performances. Packing houses across Europe and the U.S., they have supported Joe Bonamassa, Buddy Guy, Eric Gales, Living Colour, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Walter Trout, Rival Sons and many more.

With Southern flavored, blues rock & roll and hints of 70’s rock, Shine A Light On Me Brother is a striking ten-track barn burner, recorded and mixed by Jeff Frickman at Sonic Groove Studio in Burbank, CA. Following the brilliant 2020 album, Last Light On The Highway, their new release finds the band in peak form with Robert Jon Burrison (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Andrew Espantman (drums, backing vocals), Steve Maggiora (keyboards, backing vocals), Henry James (lead guitar, backing vocals), and Warren Murrel (bass, backing vocals.) On select songs, lauded vocalists Mahalia Barnes, Prinnie Stevens and Juanita Tippins offer background vocals and 504 Horns from New Orleans infuse rich brass.

Kicking off the album is the joyful, rock and roll stomp with gospel roots, “Shine A Light On Me Brother.” It’s a party starter, complete with boogie woogie piano, a tight rhythm section, horns and slide guitar. Dealing with the hardships of the pandemic, Robert Jon & The Wreck slid out from under the lockdown challenges and shine a light on the positive. You can’t help but get out of your seat for this one.

The soul of Robert Jon & The Wreck emerges on “Chicago,” a contemporary Soul/R&B blues tune about love and loss, featuring the 504 Horns. With beautiful melody and chord changes, Burrison’s voice is expressive, compelling, his tone unlike any vocalist I can think of. It’s songs like this that remind fans that Robert Jon & The Wreck have “it”– a sound all their own, created by stellar musicians and songwriters with soul. The 504 Horns and sax solo (Jason Parfait) add to the soulfulness. Breathe it in.

Robert Jon & The Wreck have stayed true to their sound and there’s no one out there like them. They aren’t Southern rock, per say, but a  blend of rock and roll, blues, R&B with a distinct Southern flair. Pair that with the quality of their songwriting, vocals, and musicianship, and you have an insanely talented group with catchy, hook-driven songs.

Breaking up the feel-good celebration is the thoughtful “Hurricane,” an acoustic ballad co-written by Ian Cullen and the band. It’s about the struggle of loving someone who is “my hurricane” and being the one to calm her storm. There’s melancholy to this song, a wistful vibe. Slide guitar played by Henry James mourns a love that can never be.

As always with Robert Jon & The Wreck, they offer a platter of varied tones and styles. Digging a bit deeper, “Movin’” has a 70’s jam feel with delicious acoustic guitars and beautiful harmonies. RJ&TW succeeds at pushing boundaries and this track flashes psychedelia and interesting percussion. Top tier production.

Diving deeper still, “Brother” addresses a loved one’s mental health problems written by Ian Cullen and the band. In a minor key with fuzzed out guitars, it’s a mournful track about the brutal reality of mental illness and bearing witness to the suffering, the fall out. James’ guitar solo, also in a minor key, cries out in pain. It’s an atmospheric and moving track.

Always a group to surprise listeners, Robert Jon & The Wreck’s closing number “Radio” sparkles with humor and up-tempo groove. About every young musician’s battle with the music industry, it has a tasty Country pickin’ vibe with remarkable guitar played by James. All sing in unison, rallying together against “Miss Hollywood” who chewed them up and spat them out. They are having a grand time.

Watch “Shine A Light On Me Brother”

‘Shine A Light On Me Brother’ pre-order link 

Robert Jon & The Wreck are currently on tour. See dates here

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