Jim Stephens, Yellow River (Ropeadope)

Much like a lazy river road that tirelessly meanders from town to town, Yellow River, the latest release from Jim Stephens, transports the listener through a myriad of landscapes or rather soundscapes as the case may be.

Leading the excursion is Jim Stephens on guitar, lap steel, and harmonica. Recorded at Esplanade Studios in New Orleans, Stephens utilizes three different rhythm sections featuring New Orleans’ Milk Williams of Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Sam Price from Honey Island Swamp Band and Sam Shahin and Noah Young from Naughty Professor. Adding to the extravaganza is an absolutely slamming horn section featuring among others, Big Sammy Williams on trombone and Jeffrey Watkins of the New Orleans Suspects on tenor saxophone.

“Torture Me” kick starts the trip with the horn section in full flight but to show that the roadmap on this trip is pointless, Stephens and company completely change gear on “Spend My Life” that features vocalist Ariel Skye and pianist Shaun Martin.

Before you know it, the terrain changes again and “Old Time Religion” transports the listener to a full-fledged Gospel Tent revival. It’s not until “Rice n’ Greens” that the guitar takes center stage, and Stephens along with Andre “BoyWonder” Coles make the wait worthwhile as they deliver some fine and nimble fretwork. Other highlights include the greasy “Yellow River” with Stephens on lap steel.

With stops in the worlds of jazz, blues, rock, funk, soul, and gospel, Stephens and company cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. Buckle up and enjoy the scenery of Yellow River.