The John Popper Project

by: The John Popper Project

Forget everything you ever knew about John Popper and Blues Traveler. This is no jam band but they can play some. The John Popper Project features former BT bandmate Tad Kinchla, Marcus Bleecker and DJ Logic (who gets separate billing, for some reason). Produced by Craig Street, with a small stew of guests including Warren Haynes, Cyro Baptista, David Torn, rapper Greenweedz, Glenn Patscha, and vocalist Amy Helm, this is one steamy, groove-laden set that offers a view of Popper as not just a harmonica master who can play dozens of them through more effects that you can shake a speaker at, but as a serious funk and futuristic R&B vocalist -- most folks knew he could sing pop and rock. That's not to say this set is without its flaws. It has some, but the music is also challenging in places, different than anything else that's out there, and usually knows when to give it up. The set begins with a sultry funk number called "Lapdance" with a sample from James Brown's "Popcorn With a Feeling" and some neat loops by Logic. It's followed by "Everything," a rock number with some drop-dead sonic funk drops in between refrain and new verses and in the bridge. "All Good Children" opens with a break loop and three times the tempo of this folksy little pop tune as scratches and guitar are layered through the opening verse. This is a tender side of Popper, and it's refreshing, but it gets old so thankfully there's a great harmonica break and lots of rhythm. The cuts that work best are those that are far outside the norm, like the opener, and "Fire in Her Kiss," and "Trigger," where funk, rock, and the blues are woven together by that nasty-ass harmonica of his and Logic's samples. The bomb drops on these tracks, and to a lesser degree on the more R&B-oriented cuts like "Took" and the closer "Pack Your Love." The more rock-directed efforts where there is some "jamming" involved lose their wallop after a couple of minutes and one wonders what comes next -- this might feel and sound very different in a live setting, however. Thus, this is an imperfect but fascinating project with more than enough interesting ideas, just give them one more album to put it all together. That said, there's more than enough here to engage a listener for most of its hour-long expanse. ~ Thom Jurek

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