The Homemade Jamz Blues Band
Pay Me No Mind
First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2008, Volume 15, #8
Written by John Metzger
Sun August 17, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT
What exactly do kids who arenít even old enough to drive know about playing the blues? In the case of The Homemade Jamz Blues Band ó a Tupelo, Mississippi-based trio that consists of brothers Ryan and Kyle Perry and their sister Taya ó the answer, as it turns out, is "plenty." Their ages may range from 9 to 15, but they sound considerably older. Last year, competing against 156 other outfits from around the world, The Homemade Jamz Blues Band placed second at Memphisí annual International Blues Challenge. Although it would be easy to take the cynical route and believe that the adorability of a bunch of underage musicians playing in an adult world factored into the equation of this lofty accomplishment, one trek through the ensembleís debut Pay Me No Mind will prove otherwise.
First impressions are, of course, everything, particularly when the odds of grabbing anyoneís attention for the long haul are seemingly insurmountable. To its credit, The Homemade Jamz Blues Band appears to understand that it very well might be viewed as some kind of novelty act. To dismiss this notion quickly, the ensemble had little choice but to front-load Pay Me No Mind with its best material, which immediately evokes everything from Paul Butterfield to B.B. King, from Cream to Albert Collins, and from Jimi Hendrix to the North Mississippi Allstars. In doing so, however, it also left its flaws exposed during the collectionís latter half, which falters almost as much as the opening sequence succeeds. Tunes, such as Time for Change and the title track, either are too new to The Homemade Jamz Blues Bandís repertoire to have reached their full potential or have been around for so long that the group is bored with finding new ways to express them. Likewise, a cover of John Lee Hookerís Boom Boom is a nice touch that ought to work, but the ensembleís heart just doesnít seem to be into performing it.
The Homemade Jamz Blues Bandís weakest link is its drummer Taya Perry, which isnít surprising, given that sheís only nine. For certain, she is a steady timekeeper, but she also lacks both the forcefulness and the finesse to make the intricacies of the material truly excel. Too often, she simply slips into the background, seemingly content to ride along with the music rather than drive it. Fortunately, more often than not, Kyle, her bass playing brother, swoops in and masks her deficiencies by supplying a series of rippling undercurrents to the arrangements.
In many ways, however, The Homemade Jamz Blues Band lives or dies, at least for now, on the basis of its eldest memberís contributions. Although he is only 15, Ryan Perry already is a phenomenally gifted guitarist, and his vocals find the emotional edge that is necessary for delivering the ensembleís material convincingly. Consequently, he settles quite easily into his role as the groupís front man. Throughout the first five tracks on Pay Me No Mind, he not only engages his younger siblings with his inspired guitar playing, but he also pushes them forward, challenging them to perform on his level. Itís only when he steps back that the collection begins to fall apart.
In the end, Pay Me No Mind isnít any closer to being a blues masterpiece than the countless other retro-minded recordings that hit the market every year. The thing to consider, however, is this: If The Homemade Jamz Blues Band is this good now, what will it sound like after its members grow and mature? Based upon Pay Me No Mindís strengths, fans of the genre arenít going to want to miss finding out.
Of Further Interest...
Pay Me No Mind is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box