One thing I loved about this year's Grand Band Slam and subsequent CT Music Awards was that it forced me to become even more familiar with certain artists that I only knew peripherally. One such artist that I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know better is John Fries.
John Fries (pronounced 'freeze') has been a staple of the New London music scene for some time now. He's also run in various circles of the rich CT Blues scene for awhile as well. But it wasn't until his most recent release, U.S. 50, back in May of this year that I was able to sit down with some sort of recorded material and really bask in his talent and songwriting prowess.
O.k., follow me on this one. I feel that there are two types of people in this world - Rooters and Ramblers. Rooters live in one place for a long time, maybe all their lives and are perfectly content to do so. Ramblers are people who could pack up and go tomorrow. They love the open road and the feeling of newness and freedom that a long stretch of highway can bring. I'm a Rambler and I love music that touches something in a rambling heart; something that says 'It's o.k. to be on the move, we'll be your soundtrack for you.' John Fries writes 'rambling music' of the highest order.
What makes me feel so at home listening to this record? Maybe it's because his album is named after one of the longest stretches of road in the country, maybe it's the album cover showcasing some random part of the Southwest (one of my favorite parts of the country), but most likely it's the splendid combination of blues, alt-country, roots rock, and Americana that Fries is able to so succinctly weave together.
Fries has the voice of an old soul. It's full of experience and stories to tell. His guitar work is exceptional, and his backing rhythm section (formerly The Heat) hit all the right notes while Fries leads them through varying degrees of soulful rock n' roll. Although Fries was nominated in the Best Blues category at the CT Music Awards and he certainly, at times, worships at the altar of such legends as Elmore James, Buddy Guy and Bobby Bland, Fries is not just a "bluesman". Combining the blues with influences as far ranging as the Black Crowes, the Allman Brothers, John Mayall, and Ben Harper, Fries has created a unique take on roots rock that will appeal to a wide range of music fans. U.S. 50 is another exceptional musical accomplishment to come from the New London scene and one of the better albums from a CT artist this year.