Good time-honored rock and roll is cyclical and generational. The generation is not by blood, though it could be (I’m sure Jakob Dylan would approve). The generational term is through influence and those seemingly little moments that carry on into the future. So when Eric Clapton recorded “Layla” back just a few short years ago (ahem, decades), even the egomaniac himself did not know how the culture would embrace the tune and where it would carry its own little legacy on. So when JD Simo grabbed a guitar, recorded an album, and sprung some strings in the Allman Brothers home throughout the 60’s, he continued part of the churning generation of rock and roll. JD Simo recorded the album, ‘Let Love Show the Way,’ using the same guitar that propelled “Layla” to great new heights in that seismic riff.
JD Simo is all about the generation of rock and roll, and he wears it on his sleeve. If not, there would be little purpose in seeking out the guitar that immortalized “Layla” to tape, as well as created the backbone of the Allman Brothers eponymous debut album.
JD Simo wears the sound right there in every pluck of the strings. His production also showcases classic rock right on the first track of the record. Who is that coming over the horizon line? JD Simo slowly increases the volume in album opener, ‘Stranger Blues,’ until he is right in your face- a cowboy from hell, if you will. Stevie Ray Vaughn would find the whole thing an utter riot, especially when Simo unleashes a tide of virtuosic guitar in the front half of the jam.
He really doesn’t stop in this unrelenting LP. What could potentially begin as a curious throwback record becomes freakishly huge. “I Lied” launches a turgid riff that would make mid-career Metallica a bit jealous. It isn’t as loud as a Black Sabbath lick, but it packs the same density.
This is not to give the impression that JD Simo is a metal act, but he is absolutely inspired by those blatant riffs. JD Simo is more Nashville than Los Angeles, and he is more riff-inspired than thick and nuanced guitar play. He keeps his tones warm, pleasing, and huge, as opposed to fast and overblown. Its rock as Duane Allman would like it. It’s all about that guitar baby, smooth as butter. So when he draws things down a few notches for “Today I Am Here,” the guitar floats passively by. It’s a quiet interlude that reminds listeners that as you rock on by, the somber moments give it all the more weight.
The title track has that reverb-heavy guitar, awashed in thick production and muddied by its own zombie-paced atmosphere. JD Simo even remarks on the dread heard in the song. “It is the winter, the snow is on the ground. Everything moves slowly.” It isn’t Robert Frost, but it carries the weight and quietness of the song’s wintery vibrance.
JD Simo manages to contextualize what is essentially classic country rock into a modern format. Yes, some things are pure throwback. Others are inspired far more by Jack White’s revitalizing of what is a pure throwback. In all, it’s an effort that carries the generation into brisk new territories by revisiting what mattered in the first place. Layla lives on.