25 April 2018
WHOA! MAN! JESUS! MUST I HOLLER? The answer is: yes.
// Bandcamp //
Somewhere deep in the audio version of the post - R.L. Burnside blues bible you'll find, after The First Testament of Bob Dylan and Ray Wylie Hubbard's Revelations, and a few Psalms past brilliant fellow Massachusian outfit Tarbox Ramblers sits a chapter on the power-triune known as WHOA! MAN! JESUS!
Jamaica Plain's own Whoa! Man! Jesus! bring that Burnside boogie and make an album that I wish Dylan couldawoulda made (oh don't get "all Dylan can do no wrong" cranky cuz that last one was overrated to hell 'n back and you know it). Whoa!Man!Jesus! in their album title Must I Holler ask an appropriate musical question given their driving although utterly understated delivery. Must they holler? No. They need not. W!M!J! pack as much punch at a third the volume of most bands. I remember once arguing with a young musician who felt it was much harder and showed more skill to be able to play loud. As I recall I countered with "oh, bullshit." Whoa! Man! Jesus! more than prove me right. These guys could rock the hell out of your parents living room without their neighbors being the wiser. Two guitars+one drummer (and not ones to buck the alt-blues standard - no bass player!) W!M!J! recorded Must I Holler live in the studio save for some tambourine texturizing and it has an understated swing to it that will draw you back for repeated listenings.
While it's the strength of the music that draws you in and keeps you it's the lyrics that will seal the deal. Sure there are the wicked R.L.-ian versions of Bukka White's Shake 'em On Down and Leadbelly's Hangman, Hangman but my friend and yours Jesus make a couple appearances, too. Once in rockin' folker Jesus Was Not American which totally appeals to the knee-jerk bed wetting liberal elite in me. And rather than taking cheap, boring shots at Jesus they lob subtle common sense, cliche-free sarcasm at His followers that give Jesus a bad name. I was delighted to see the song was in part influenced by Rev. Jim Wallis, a minister who (surprise!) is interested in social justice issues. Jesus shows up again (elsewhere more subtly) in Yer Jesus Don't Rock which, according to the WHOA! MAN! JESUS! lyrics blog is "Inspired by those who in response to Hurricane Katrina gazed down from airplane windows, sent Bibles, etc".
But I don't want to over labor the Jesus stuff 'cuz hellfire it's the Dylan/Burnside boogie that takes precedent throughout. I just want to make the point that -GASP!- these guys actually give some thought to what they are about, not unlike Dylan, and that makes me really frkn happy. This is just such a fine, smart, hypnotic album that I do not hesitate to rank Whoa! Man! Jesus! Must I Holler as one of the finest albums I have had the pleasure to hear so far this year. Whoa!Man!Jesus! may play it on the low down but you will play it as loud as you can get away with.
Whoa! Man! Jesus! is dead. Long live Whoa! Man! Jesus!
You can and should download their one album for free from Bandcamp.
PS- I must give THANKS to my pal UKs DJ HiLLFUNK for hippin' me to Whoa!Man!Jesus!
(Originally published AUGUST 6, 2008)