CD Review: The Junior League Band — Jelly Roll; Playing Rock and Roll Hotel, July 16

The Junior League Band
Jelly Roll

Beaver Records

By Jim Simpson

The Junior League Band’s third full-length release begins with the most promising and enticing invitation to a party as ever there was one: “Give me some sugar and hold me tight/The whiskey’s out, don’t be a stranger tonight.” With banjo player/lead singer Lissy Rosemont’s breathy and mesmerizingly original vocal style, it’s hard to resist the offer. The Atlanta native and current Washington, D.C. resident has assembled quite a tight and confident band, including – check this out – Levon Helm’s horn section. The woman is, in a word, connected.

Jelly Roll is a filé gumbo of musical styles: bluegrass, country, folk, rock, jazz, Delta blues, Dixieland jazz, and (get this!) an a capella classic Irish traditional song as a hidden track at the end of the album. It’s this attention to detail of all styles that make this record so special and entertaining.

Confidence is paramount here, as the band covers The Beatles’ “I’ve Got A Feeling” surprisingly well (not many artists do), complete with tripped-out guitar solos by lead guitarist John Lee. Rounding out the band are Brandon Kalber, bass; Ian Thompson, drums; Sadie Dingfelder, fiddle; and Will Waikart on percussion.

Compared to Alison Krauss and The Band by the Washington Post, The Junior League Band is a self-described “old-time inspired rock band.” It’s tough to pin down their defining genre simply because they do all so well.

The alt-country/rock sound of “Too Far” (written with Levon Helm in mind) fits just as comfortably with “The Best Is Yet To Come,” which could be straight out of a smoky jazz club on a rainy Friday night, laid out with spare acoustic bass, guitar, and Rosemont’s sultry vocals.

“Falling For You” is pure and infectious boogie-woogie with actual hand-claps and some mighty dirty guitar riffs. As for the title track, Rosemont says, “Jelly Roll is sex, sweethearts, musicians, making out, whatever your Jelly Roll of choice may be. I just noticed that a lot of these folks I like to listen to were always singing about their Jelly Roll — from Peg Leg Howell and Dave Van Ronk to Doc Watson and the Grateful Dead. It’s got this sort of dirty but sweet association to it, and so I thought I’d set up a scene of two old lovebirds, getting down (holding hands, making out, making love, whatever your imagination desires!) on the kitchen floor.”

However you slice it, Jelly Roll is joyously upbeat and soulful with old-time charms.

The Junior League Band play Rock and Roll Hotel on July 16.

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