A local bluesman is doing his part to further the genre he loves by looking inward at his own creativity and offering new music.
In November, Tunkhannock artist JP Williams released “Stolen Cadillac,” his second studio album since returning to making music in 2014 after a long hiatus that allowed him to focus on his personal life. The four-song EP exclusively showcases songs written by Williams, his first effort of the kind since rekindling his recording with 2016’s “Mixed Bag.”
“Mixed Bag,” Williams’ first toe back into the proverbial blues waters, was a 12-song album that featured 11 arrangements of blues staples — the volume included interpretations of songs by greats like Bo Diddley, William “Casey Bill” Weldon and Willie Dixon — and one Williams original titled “Sleepin’ With The Devil.”
“Stolen Cadillac,” the guitarist and songwriter explained in a recent phone interview, was Williams’ reaffirmation of his own melody-authoring abilities.
“I really believe that the blues music that I do relies on artists that came before us, but, more so than all the other genres, sometimes it needs new work,” Williams said. “As I look at the progression from Robert Johnson to Muddy Waters to the Allman Brothers to Stevie Ray Vaughan to Joe Bonamassa, there’s always something new (to appreciate). I decided as I was doing this that that’s the direction I needed to go in.”
The EP shows Williams’ versatility with the swinging juke-joint swagger of “Now or Never,” the eerie torch jazz of “The Blues Got a Hold On Me” and the up-tempo acoustic delivery of “Woman of Mine.”
The title track, Williams explained, developed when Scranton singer-songwriter and playwright Tom Flannery offered his verses to Williams’ composition process.
“He sent me lyrics and said, ‘Put it to blues,’ and I did that,” Williams said. “I’m fitting my music to a Tom Waits type of thing. The lyrics are a bit darker. I tried to add music that would bring it out but also to have it be different.”
A chance encounter with a classic vehicle and its gregarious owner provided an iconic image for both album art and an accompanying video for the title cut.
“I walked out of a store in Tunkhannock and there was a 1961 pink Cadillac sitting there,” Williams said. “It belongs to a Mehoopany resident named Keith Verbjar, who graciously let us take photographs with it.”
The video has amassed over 500 views to date, and the single has been picked up for airplay by several radio stations and nationally syndicated radio show “Soul of the Blues with Cassie J. Fox.”
“We’re getting some good reviews, and we’re excited,” Williams said.
The album, recorded at Republic Audio Studio in Clarks Summit with producer Clyde Rosencrance, features more layered production than “Mixed Bag” and, in addition to Williams’ usual band of bassist Bob Strunk, drummer Jack Roberts and harmonicist Eddie “The Harp” Czarkowski, solicits the talents of percussionist Dominick Piccione, keyboard player Eric Brody, multi-instrumentalist Giles Davis and vocalist Ekat Pereyra. There’s even a guest appearance on cajon drum by Williams’ daughter Leslie Williams.
“I invited musicians to not only play the songs, but to contribute their own unique talents to the recordings,” Williams said. “That gave the producer and I a lot of fine material to (use toward) the final product. By nature of the new material I have, I had to pick four uniquely distinct songs but have it be tied together with what I do live and what I present to the public.”
“The production is something I’m really proud of,” Williams continued. “I smile when I hear it.”
Williams also released a live album, “Smokin Hot,” earlier in 2017, and the record features his work with a cigar box guitar.
The veteran blues player said he’s looking forward to recording more new material in 2018 and returning to the Pennsylvania Cigar Box Guitar Festival in York for the second year in a row.
Upcoming local performances include appearances at Crotti’s on Ash and Ale Mary’s in Scranton and the Windsor Inn in Jermyn.