- Refuse to Lose
- Jarekus Singleton
This review originally appeared in Big City Blues magazine. Reviewed by Steve Daniels
Many blues followers are familiar with dynamic media favorite Gary Clark Jr.; many of us have also encountered the equally compelling Marquise Knox. To the list of up-and-coming young artists, it's time to add the name Jarekus Singleton.
Hailing from Mississippi, Singleton emerged from a gospel music background (not surprisingly, common in the blues world), influenced heavily by the Kings – Albert, B.B., and Freddie – Stevie Ray Vaughan, and even several rap and country luminaries. Switching from his first instrument, bass, he has become a proficient guitarist and well as songwriter and performer. "Refuse to Lose" represents his debut appearance on a major label…and it's a major success.
The album is comprised of a dozen songs, all penned (solely, or with Harrison Sumner) by Singleton. The prevailing (but not exclusive) theme is an old one: the travails of amatory relationships, the perfidy of an unreliable lover, even the desire for revenge. However, the hoary motifs are enlivened by fresh ingredients, particularly some piquant and risible lyrics. In "Purposely," for example, Singleton disses his recalcitrant partner: "If your funeral starts at 7, you'll probably show up at 9." In "Hell," he crows, "When I die I'm goin' to heaven, baby; you already took me through hell." My favorite, from "The Blame Game": "My boss is a jerk, he complained every time I went to sleep." Wouldn't that give anyone the blues?
In fact, "The Blame Game" is one of my favorite tunes on the album; it sports a loping beat, some great lead guitar, and fine harmonica accompaniment by guest Brandon Santini. With its back porch rustic flavor it evokes Taj Mahal's classic version of "Going Up the Country." Also in the running for best cut is "Crime Scene," which allows Singleton to demonstrate that he can effectively croon, in contrast to his lusty singing and rapping on other tunes. His lead forays on the song begin in the low register with single notes and end with a passionate and frenzied coda; the song is reminiscent of Robert Cray's "Strong Persuader" and of equal high quality.
Echoes of Jimi Hendrix, Joe Louis Walker, and Stevie Ray pervade the album.
There are funky groove tunes here, such as the syncopated "Gonna Let Go" with its swirling organ backing; slow and mid-tempo shuffles; and a rousing closing rocker, "Come Wit Me." Bandmates James Salone on organ, Ben Sterling on bass, and John Blackmon on percussion are stalwart throughout. Singleton's list of thank-you's in the liner notes is long. In turn, I want to thank him, and Alligator impresario and producer Bruce Iglauer, for introducing me to a notable new talent.