JIM DIAMOND REVUE
Friends & Family
(Big Tone Recordings)

 

A must for 21st century blues rock fans is the 2019 CD release of Friends & Family by Kentucky based Jim Diamond Revue. The sound of the 13 track album carries on the traditions of electric blues rock bands like vintage Allman Brothers and Marshall Tucker to UK blues rockers Gary Moore and the vocals are reminiscent of Steve Winwood. An excellent guitarist and singer-songwriter, Jim wrote the tunes and his band sounds incredible. Over a dozen musicians back up Jim. For guitar fans, Jim's cousins on guitar are Nick Mowery and Joe Litteral while Hank Mowery sings and plays harp. Chris Herndon (band member) sings as well and Jim and Chris split the vocals. Speaking about sharing the vocal spotlight, Jim modestly explains, "Chris Herndon is the golden throat. He is the one that sounds like Stevie Winwood! I'm just a hack blues singer... He deserves the accolades for singing." The album also features several bluesy instrumentals while the horn section brings in a hefty dose of jazzy blues. A dynamic front person, Jim cuts a veritable rug as he and his band work their way through a 13 track, 78 minute set of foot tapping, hand clapping, finger snapping originals. Music fans may want to pick up the Friends & Family CD with its cool, ZZ Top inspired cover art with informative liner notes by Jim Diamond. www.jimdiamondband.com

 





mwe3.com presents an interview with
JIM DIAMOND


mwe3
: You’re originally from Canada and you live in Bowling Green Kentucky. What do you like best about living in Kentucky and can you compare life in Canada with your life in the US? It’s very close to Nashville, so I guess you have the best of both worlds there. Tell about that area of the south and the influence it has on your music?

Jim Diamond: I must say I am a proud citizen of the United States of America as of 2019. But, I’m a young Canadian lad at heart. Things are similar in the States as they are in Canada. I tell folks here all the time, “the only difference between me and you; is that you have that real cool accent!” I am influenced less by geography and more by the inhabitants and my surroundings. I write what I know…

Most of the time I write about what I observe or consider. Nashville; definitely “Music City!” So much of all genres. When we moved to this area, North Nashville I call it, it had more, shall I say… rural sensibilities! Now, it’s a destination city for so much. When we go downtown it’s a wash of music - all manners, players, ages, and instruments. In fact, there are folk on the corners busking that makes me think, “Wow, I need to go home and sell all my stuff!” So, their dedication is a motivator for my journey.

mwe3: Tell us about writing and recording the Friends & Family album. Would you describe it as modern day blues-rock, jump blues or R&B - or all of the above? Your band that you formed in 1990, Groove Syndicate is featured yet on the cover you credit the new album to the Jim Diamond Revue. Is there a difference between the two bands or is one an extension of the other?

Jim Diamond: As you suggested – all of the above. My influences come from all those so-called blues categories. I think it’s important to the show and experience that all styles are offered up! It’s super fun for the band, and for the audience, I hope! I draw on what I’ve learned from all the musicians I listen to and add a dash of my sensibilities, and as they say in the States “voila”!

The title Jim Diamond Revue is born out of the old Rhythm & Blues Tours, which were called “Revues!” So, we brought in three of our cousins - actually Beth’s 1st cousins Hank Mowery (harp / vocals), Joe Litteral (guitar), and Nick Mowery (guitar) all are world class players. Both of our families are very musical! Beth’s has the edge on quantity and ability though! Also, ex-Jim Diamond member and sax player Ray Warfield, old pal Ryan Stiles on bari / tenor sax, who auditioned with the band in 1997! Now 25 years later he’s on this record.

And three great Louisville, Kentucky keyboard standouts; Rob Brown, Ron Wurtele, and Bob Ramsey. Bob toured with us twice for; Blues To Bop in Lugano, Switzerland. He’s a monster of a player, writer and arranger. The core band is still: Beth (drums), Mark Wagner (bass) Chris Herndon (vocals / guitar) Jon (Reese) Pleasant (keys), and Joe (Big Bones Mississippi) DiGiuseppe. We always wanted to do something with our family and friends so that’s how it came about. Now the title… it’s an error! That we couldn’t undo. It should have been; Jim Diamond & The Groove Syndicate Revue – Family & Friends. But, C’est la vie!

mwe3: The Friends & Family album is a great display of the blues. You make it so diverse, so it’s more a mix of R&B, blues, rock and instrumentals. Musically speaking, is there strength in diversity?

Jim Diamond: I believe exactly that! There is strength in diversity. As mentioned earlier, that diversity, in my mind, keeps everyone interested! Band, audience, promoters, etc. Additionally, I’m influenced by so much different music that it spills over into the way I write. Always keep your mind open to differing mashups!

mwe3: You praise Chris Herndon for his vocals on the Friends & Family album. In your estimation what tracks does Chris stand out on as a vocalist and a composer as well? How and when did you meet Chris and the other core members of the Groove Syndicate and when did the band come together?

Jim Diamond: Chris is an awesome singer and most importantly; he gets the way that I write! When I write, I don’t always hear my voice singing the songs. Chris is a standout on every song he sings! Pick any of them – “Dog House”, “Better Way”, “See The Light”, “Hot For You”, and his tune; “Rock and Roll All Over You”! They are realized through his singing! He does them justice. Interestingly, like Ryan Stiles, Chris auditioned as a brass player in 1997 while in college. And now, 20 + plus years later, he’s the Golden Throat! How cool is that?

Jon Pleasant began his tour with us in 1997 when we first moved to Kentucky. He’s came and gone a couple of times. Always finding his way back. Mark Wagner contacted us from an ad he saw and an online video in 2012 and fit right in! Him and Beth are one badass rhythm section. And finally, Big Bones Mississippi – Joe DiGiuseppe joined way back in 1999 when he found a cassette of ours on the floor of a truck he was buying! I’m not making this up.

mwe3: You wrote all the music on Friends & Family. Where do you get your ideas from as a songwriter, lyricist and bandleader? Who does the production and arranging on the Friends & Family tracks?

Jim Diamond: Other than “Rock and Roll All Over You”, Chris’ song, I wrote and arranged everything. Ray Warfield and I wrote the horn parts. I would tell Ray what I heard in my head, and he would put it to the paper charts. I draw on experiences, surroundings, and social climate for lyrical ideas. It was produced by me and Steve Catfish Wilson. Steve mixed the record as well. He has a studio called RTR (Raise The Roof) in Louisville. Steve is The Kentucky Headhunters front of the house engineer for the last 30-ish years. He was also Stevie Ray Vaughan’s last amp tech before the accident that shook the world. His sensibilities cannot be understated. If it sounds great, it’s because of him.

mwe3: Beth plays some excellent sounding drums on Friends & Family. How did you meet Beth and how would you describe Beth’s influence on you and your songwriting and her influence on the band sound?

Jim Diamond: Beth is an incredible drummer! That cannot be said enough! And, she gets me… everything I play, she insightfully knows where to go, and where I’m going! We have really, really, really evolved and got better over the years! We met at a blues jam in Cincinnati in 1994. She was tasked at running a cross-town rival blues jam at Lucille’s to the one I was running in Northern Kentucky at the Mansion Hill Tavern. Of course, mine was the “mack-daddy!” Truthfully, it was most known, Lucille’s was a fledgling. She was a rookie at running a jam; in fact it was her first! So I went to see, maybe spy (haha) on how Lucille’s was going… I saw her struggling and offered up my help, as an olive branch.

Jams are formed by groups of musicians; a drummer, bass player couple of guitar players, maybe a horn or two, and a singer. This particular night there were very few singers, so I jumped in to sing some songs…maybe more than a few… Then, when it was my turn, from the list, as a guitar player / singer to go, I jumped up on stage, ready to play and she said, “hey what are you doing, you had your three songs!” I was flabbergasted! I stammered and said, “what do you mean? I was helping you because you had no singers!” She said, “Sorry!” I said, “Wait a minute, do you know who I am?” Not in am arrogant way, more in a . . “hey, I run the biggest, baddest blues jam in the area” way. Sadly, that’s NOT how it came across! Ooooops. Hahahahaha!! I looked like an asshole! Deservedly so… In my defense, when I realized the error of my ways in 2-3 minutes. I apologized and explained my point. The rest, as they say is history. She was playing with another band, I was between Groove Syndicates and I said, “why don’t you come play in my band!” And away we went, all over the world! Wow!

mwe3: Your first two musical influences B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix. Was rock or blues a bigger influence on your guitar work and what about jazz influences?

Jim Diamond: Man, that’s a tough call. Earlier, probably more Jimi… for sure. Also, good catch… Duane Eddy was on our record player a lot! My Dad loved him. But since about 1989-ish more blues-type cats… The three King's (B.B., Freddie, and Albert), Ronnie Earl, Gatemouth Brown, Albert Collins, T-Bone Walker, Canadians - Tom Lavin – Powder Blues Band, and Donnie Walsh – Downchild Blues band, Rory Gallagher, Gary Moore, The Brothers, Warren Haynes, Lonnie Mack, Hollywood Fats, Snooks Eaglin, Earl Hooker, and of course Stevie Ray Vaughan. Plus a few of my pals; Wendall Holmes (Holmes Brothers) Sonny Moorman, Stacy Mitchhart, Noah Wotherspoon, Jon Del Toro Richardson. And guys like Guy King, Kirk Fletcher, Nick Moss, and Greg Koch. They all influence me every time I pick up my guitar! There are too many influences to list! They are / were all my personal teachers! All of what I do is borrowed or stolen from them, and many others!

mwe3: Also, you have several instrumental tracks on Friends & Family as well. Tell us about the big instrumental blues influence on your writing and playing. Is instrumental blues an overlooked and under appreciated art form and what can you tell us about your upcoming instrumental album?

Jim Diamond: The instrumental influence comes from artists Freddie King, Ronnie Earl, T-Bone Walker, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Gatemouth Brown, Earl Hooker and Kenny Burrell. Personally, I love the instrumentals. And I do believe that they are overlooked. Today’s audiences need to be engaged and most shy away from that type of music. In fact, we just had this discussion I the band. Generally, we start off all of our shows with an instrumental. In clubs, every set begins with one or two instrumentals. It gets the band warmed up, ready to rock! For me it’s today’s modern classical music! It’s what I compare to classical. They are all about the instrumentation, and play - back and forth between the soloists. It’s mesmerizing, interesting and puts spotlights on the players. Interestingly, Cannonball is my homage to Freddie King. I use so many “Freddie” type licks and sensibilities. But the solo definitely has a Duane Eddy feel in spots!

mwe3: You play vintage Fender and Gibson, G&L and Reverend guitars. Do you have a preference among your guitars and what was your go-to guitar for the new album? Also what can you tell us about your BigTone custom guitars and do you use pedals or effects on Friends & Family too?

Jim Diamond: I love, love guitars! All manners, colors, brands, and styles. But, mostly I play a Stratocaster or a similar styled three pickup guitar. Like G&L or Reverend. I have been playing a Les Paul and a Flying V a lot more lately. Throw in a Tele or a Hollow body Gibson now and then (ES-225, ES-339, ES195). Mostly on the record I used a custom-built BigTone Strat (P90 & Humbucker and just a volume knob) and an Eric Johnson Strat. BigTone is something that I’ve been toying with. Morphed bolt on neck Frankenstein’s, funky and different. Handmade necks, bodies, and pickups that I assemble. The only pedals used on the record, on a few songs were a TS808, Maxon 808, and Love pedal Super Six in different configurations. I also used a Leslie speaker on track 4, “Better Way”.

mwe3: You also have an endorsement with Eminence speakers. How did that fall into place? What amps are featured on the Friends & Family album and what is your go-to amp when you record music as well as when you play live?

Jim Diamond: For me, Eminence are the best speakers on the planet! Mr. Chris Rose the president of the company, was so kind to offer me an endorsement back in 1999. They are in all my amps. On the record I used a Fender Vibro-king, Fender Vibrolux, Mesa Blue Angel, Traynor YGM3, and a Dan Electro DM25. My usual go to on the road has always been a Fender Super Reverb, and a Fender Vibrolux. But, lately I’m going smaller with the Traynor YGM3 and the Dan Electro DM25. They’re easier to move! (hahahaha!)

mwe3: When you recorded Friends & Family was it all done live or are there a lot of overdubs on the album? Were all the parts recorded in one studio and how were the sessions tracked and mixed?

Jim Diamond: We recorded the project in two days, live. We had some overdubs because of “recording” issues like signal issues, tone issues, weird noise issues… Also, cousin Hank didn’t make the session, so we added him with RTR later. But, 90 percent was done in the two sessions. In hindsight, I could have managed it better. We’ll do better on our next studio album.

mwe3: How does the Friends & Family album reflect your live shows? Do you tend to cover music from all your albums? Your live shows must be quite colorful. What can you tell us about the joys of bringing your music to the live stage and what are the challenges of bringing your music to live audiences?

Jim Diamond: We play as much of the new record as we can. Since we do 80 percent original material in a show, we have other material from previous records that makes its way into our shows. Also, the ‘personnel available’ for the show has an impact on the set lists and song selection. We love, love, love to entertain and show our stuff! Our biggest challenge is balancing cover tunes with originals and making them blend in our show. Recently, we’ve taken some cool classic rock stuff by Zep, Cream, etc. and re-imagined them in our style! The results I must say are really, really cool! In fact, the coolest will makes its way onto our next studio record in 2021!

mwe3: In addition to the upcoming Shut Up & Play instrumental album, you are also planning a retrospective of various tracks called Choices. How many tracks are on that one and what is the time span it covers and when will those upcoming albums see release? What other things do you have planned for 2020?


Jim Diamond: The two new records slated for this year are compilations. Shut up and Play will be all instrumentals selected from any one of our four recordings. And Choices will be a “best of” if you will, of material from 1997 – 2019. The retrospective will show an evolution of our musical catalog! It’s deciding on which songs … that’s the tough bit.





 

 
   
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