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Music Review: John Popper Project – John Popper Project Featuring DJ Logic

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John Popper has been the front man of the rock/blues band Blues Traveler for 20 years. Occasionally, when writing songs, he would write something that just didn’t fit Blues Traveler’s sound, but they weren't the kind of songs to cast away. Instead, a solo project was formed, which became known as the John Popper Project.

This self-titled breakout CD has a completely unique sound, which is difficult to describe. Some of the songs are blues meets rap, while others have a synthesized feel to them. One thing is certain, it definitely has blues roots and a lot of that feeling comes from front man John Popper.

John Popper is the Eric Clapton of harmonica players and he brings every bit of his skill to this CD. In many ways, it is even more prominent on this album than anything he has performed before. The main reason being there is little or no lead guitar on most songs. This not only forced, but has allowed him to reach for new heights and come away with unique sounds on the harmonica.

Tad Kinchla, a member of Blues Traveler as well, also helps fill the void left by the lack of guitar. The bass lines steal the show when there is no harmonica playing. The John Popper Project is a wonderful chance for Tad Kinchla to express himself, which he doesn’t get to do as a beat keeper for Blues Traveler.

Drummer Marcus Bleecker, originally from Mosaic, is the second largest reason the John Popper Project refines the blues feeling. Nearly all the drum work on the CD has a jazz influence while keeping a unique edge.

DJ Logic and his turntables are what make this CD a revolution. He adds the synthesized and the rap feel, both of which compliment Popper's voice extremely well.

One of the most groundbreaking songs on this album is “Louisiana Sky.” Obviously a song about the Hurricane Katrina disaster, it has a Southern rock feel to it. This song is also one of the few to have guitar. But what is best about “Louisiana Sky” is the harmonica rock near the middle that goes out of control.

Another stand out song is “All Good Children.” It has the Popper vocals Blues Traveler fans love with a great drum beat. The harmonica in the background works against the melody, making for a pleasant original sound. "Open Hand" has a lot of DJ Logic’s handy work that makes it sort of a Blues Traveler remix song with great lyrics. It also has very powerful vocals from John Popper.

Over all, The John Popper Project has a Blues Traveler influence that is obvious, but it is also something completely unique. It is a CD I loved on the first listen and it is very full — lyrically and musically. Finally, it has mad harmonica solos as well as harmonica taking the part of rhythm guitar, which, as far as my knowledge goes, is something brand new for music and very, very enjoyable.

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About Josh Phillips

  • I haven’t heard the new album in its entirety, but it seems like it’s not only a departure from the typical Blues Traveler sound but also from his 1999 solo debut, Zygote.

    Do you know if Popper plans to tour?

  • Josh

    There is a list of tour dates on the bands myspace

  • This article has been placed at the Advance.net websites, a site affiliated with about 12 newspapers.

    One such site is here.

  • jeff scott

    Oh please! John Popper ~ the Eric Clapton of the harmonica???!!! This characterization demeans both Eric Clapton, and harmonica players of any level, in one fell swoop.
    With his endless “deedle-de-deedle-de-deedle-de” noodling, all about showy technique that elicits a lot of “Wow, dude’s” from hyperactive, misguided suburban adolescents, Popper MAY be the Eddie Van Halen of harmonica. Endless technically-obsessive, maturbatory, and ultimately soul-less, hyperbolic, leave-no-space-unfilled soloing was at least somewhat original in Van Halen’s time. Popper plays a LOT of notes without ever really saying much of anything.
    Sorry, no stars for this “new” recording of the same self-absorbed drivel.


  • Josh

    The point is not to compare two musicians but to simply compare the level of influence in their individual instruments, for which I briefly considered using Eddie Van Halen instead. The fact is if I would have said him, some Eddie Van Halen fan would be making the same argument, it is impossible to compare different musicians that play different instruments it is just a level of reorganization. But being a fan of John Popper I intend to defend his ability. I would like to point out that despite you putdowns, you don’t point out one harmonica player you feel is superior. I would also like to point out that there are different instruments because they are played defiantly, you can not compare guitar and bass solo’s, just like Eric Clapton can hit the 16th and even 32nd notes very clearly to show his skill level, John Popper can hit them on the harmonica which is not an easy task.

  • -E

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