There's always been someone out there trying to cash in on kids as pop musicians. Inevitably the result is some horrible, sickly sweet concoction like "Teeny Pop Punks" or its equivalent. Back in the '60s of course there was a spate of "family" groups made up of real siblings like The Jackson Five and The Osmond Brothers or artificially generated ones for television like The Partridge Family. Heck, even before that there were the child stars of Hollywood like Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, and Mickey Rooney.
So I think it's only natural that any announcement of a band made up of children be treated with at least some cynicism. Yet from the first time I heard of The Homemade Jamz Blues Band about a year back I had the feeling they might be different from the rest of the bunch. First off, they were touted as a Blues band; to be honest if you were looking to exploit your kids and make some money off them would you choose to make them a Blues band? I love the Blues and all, but it's not exactly the big money maker that turning your kids into a Hip Hop band would be. Then there was the fact that they placed second out of 157 bands at the International Blues Challenge in 2007, a competition open to adult Blues bands from around the world.
While seeing may be believing in some instances, you only have to listen to someone sing the Blues to know if there's something there or not. If you're heart and soul aren't into it, if for some misguided reason you're only in it for the money, it's going to show up the second you open your mouth to sing, and the first time you put your fingers on the strings of your guitar. Well, I have to tell you, that after listening to Pay Me No Mind, The Home Made Jamz Blues Band's first release on the Northern Blues label, this trio of two brothers, Ryan (16) and Kyle Perry (13), guitar and bass respectively, and their younger sister Taya (9) on drums, have convinced me they're for real.
The first thing you need to know about Pay Me No Mind was that the basic tracks were laid down in the living room of the Perry house in just three days. Part two of the home made equation is the fact that their dad made the guitar Ryan plays out of auto parts, (The Ford logo across its body is a bit of give a way), and part three is that ten of the eleven songs on the disc are originals; lyrics by their dad Renaud and music by the kids.
What I want to know is where did a 16-year-old boy get the voice of a Blues singer at least four times his age? This young man Ryan Perry sings with the authoritative growl of someone whose been playing the Blues circuit for more decades then Ryan has been alive. The thing is, he doesn't just sing well, he sings with a conviction and a passion that I've not heard in players with twice his experience and four times his years. Sure on the slower songs his voice shows its lack of training, but goodness the kids only sixteen. Think what he's going to sound like with a couple more years of professional singing under his belt.
Musically a trio can be somewhat limited, there's only so much that you can do with bass, drums, and guitar. So it's a pleasant surprise to hear The Homemade Jamz Blues Band mix it up as much as they possibly can. True they're helped out by their dad laying down some really nice harmonica playing on a few tracks and producer Miles Wilkinson adding rhythm guitar on four cuts, but in the end the trio are the ones who created the music everybody is playing. Take the ninth track on the CD, "Jealous" for instance. It has a low down, down and dirty, funk like groove, running under Ryan's choppy attack on the guitar that the bass and drums carry with a loose tightness that I haven't heard rhythm sections with twice the experience carry off.
I've been saying – better than people with more years and experience then these kids have been alive, but the most amazing thing about this disc is how quickly you forget you are listening to a band whose drummer won't legally be allowed in bars for at least ten more years. From Ryan's opening challenge at the start of the disc, "Ladies and Gentlemen, are you all ready for the blues?" to the last notes of their cover of John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom" that ends the disc, this is a rough and ready collection of really well played Blues. Period.
No, wow they're amazing for their age, or any other qualifier that you might think of, because they are, simply put, a good Blues band. They have a feel for the music, and the touch to play any style that they put their minds to. From the hard driving rock tinged of "Voodoo Woman" with its echoes of Jimi Hendrix style Blues, to the slow molasses sound of deep south electric Blues of "The World's Sure Been Good To You," they sound great.
Anybody who thinks that The Homemade Jamz Blues Band is merely another novelty act along the lines of the teeny-pop bands that are churned out like processed food are in for, not just a pleasant surprise, but a shock. These three young people are not only assured musicians, they play a brand of Blues music that is as authentic and passionate as any I've heard played. Pay Me No Mind might be the name of their first CD, but if they keep playing music this good, people are going to be minding them for a long time to come.