Jorge Calderon – ‘Blue Rhythm Highway’ (2018)

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I’ve been a fan of Jorge Calderon long before he became a Grammy-winning producer on Warren Zevon’s much-deserved final project, The Wind. I first became aware of Calderón via his long association with Jackson Browne and this membership in David Lindley band, El-Rayon-X. Of course, Calderon is a singer-songwriter in his own right, having released a solo project City Music back in 1976.

Given the gap of new music, Blue Rhythm Highway is long overdue, and the project for the most part does not disappoint. Calderon serves as chief writer, producer, guitarist and bassist; however, he and executive producer Jackson Browne get by with a little help of several high-powered friends such as David Lindley, Ry Cooder, Luis Conte and Jim Keltner.

“Sky Blue Chevrolet” kicks things off in fine blues-rock fashion. The song, built around tasty 12-string guitar licks, moves the album nicely forward. Jorge Calderon’s voice has changed over these many decades, but whose hasn’t? It still can convey the earnestness and honesty of the song. Calderon’s production acumen is also in terrific shape.

“Blue City” strips the layers back even further. The song, a tight blues shuffle, was released as a single back in 2016 on Jackson Browne’s Inside Recordings label. Slide guitar is provided by Cooder, while Luis Conte contributes percussion, and Don Heffington tackles the drums. No tricks here: “Blue City” is honest blues/rock and it works well.

“On Mardi Gras Day” also released as a single in ’16 and includes the same core band as “Blue City” plus John Thomas, whose Hammond B-3 organ adds a little spice to the gumbo. The song’s New Orleans feel and Ry Cooder’s signature slide work well with Calderon’s loose and funky groove and direct, party-infused lyrics.

“Deeper Blue” has a more folk feel to it. The mid-tempo song is built around Calderon’s acoustic guitar and a thoughtful, introspective lyric. The melody is simple yet lovely and inviting. “The Western World” recalls Tom Petty and Poco with its straight ahead rock and roll backing and vivid lyrics, recalling the landscapes of the southern plains.

“Solid Sender” brings things back to a boil. The prominent slide guitar and powerful percussion belie the cryptic lyrics and powerful vocal. “Down By the Bread Fruit Trees” ends things well. This lovely acoustic-driven ballad features some of the best harmonies on the album and recalls the best of contemporaries like Jackson Browne and Jon Hiatt.

Blue Rhythm Highway is a straight-forward, honest blues and rock album which forgoes studio trickery and flash in favor of strong songs and solid playing. Hopefully, we won’t have such a long wait for the next Jorge Calderon project.


Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at [email protected]
Preston Frazier
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