It’s really not fair. For years, the United Kingdom has been exporting some of the finest people into the world, from the Beatles and the British Invasion, the bluesy rock of The Rolling Stones, Michael Caine, Rowan Atkinson and Mr. Bean, and chef extraordinaire, Gordon Ramsey. For such a small country, they’ve managed to corner the market on so much. Well, their pile of accolades is about to grow just a bit taller with the addition of The Jim Dolan Project.
Conceived by duo Luke Dolan and Jim O’Hanlon, the pair decided to combine their musical tastes and set about the work of writing and arranging their own works. Dolan contributed a bluesy element and O’Hanlon something more alt-country but the result, initially tested out at various charity gigs and open-mic nights, proved to be solid when an A&R rep passed them their card with the summons to call her. Soon, the band would find themselves in the studio working with sound engineer Ian Caple on their debut recording, Times Have Changed.
With the first countdown (“One, two, three…”) and the subsequent swampy acoustic intro of “Burning At Both Ends,” the listener is transported to the Mississippi delta, mired in the heat and humidity. O’Hanlon’s phrasing is spot on and the gospel-tinged female background vocals open up nicely to the Dolan’s lap steel. “Line in the Sand” keeps it acoustic, this time falling more into the alt-country vibe with rugged vocals and muscled guitars before fleshing out into some orchestral strings and moody power chords.
“Kingdom of Dust” again steps into the swamp and you can very nearly hear the mosquitoes buzzing about as more lap steel wheedles its way through this soundscape, echoed by moody guitars and a spiritualized lyric that works perfectly for this venue. Similarly, “Dirty Blues” lives up to its name, with rough, rugged electric guitars and a Hammond organ undercurrent courtesy of Andrew McCrorie which fills the sound perfectly while “Dead Man’s Handle” takes the slow road, offering up more roots blues rock and well-written lyrics.
A bit of a sonic slowdown occurs with “If I Don’t See You Tonight,” offering some soft notes of piano and a warm duet with Emma Stevens. After all of that blood, sweat, and tears that came before, the prospect of a well-written and performed love song fits nicely and provides that perfect bit of respite before carrying on with another subdued track in “Mistake.” Possessed of more acoustic guitar and mandolin, it’s a moody, almost mournful track, accented by the great lap steel elements that hit at the bridge.
“Real Life” returns the record to its earlier pace, this time offering up a mélange of blues, rock, and country, all in one neat package. Electric guitars rage, drums pound, and O’Hanlon lets rips with his vocals, imbuing each and every lyric with a sense of ownership and fun, a vicious combination. So it’s strange that after that bit of blues rock that the duo segues back into the subtle, with something recalling Lyle Lovett’s quieter moments with “Photograph.” It’s well-played but very demure, with the vocals warm and approachable, it’s lyric of love readily open and buoyed by the fiddle notes that surround it.
And while that track stands on its own, listeners will be happy to hear the duo’s energy drinks kicking in on the title track, with a full-on blues rock outbreak that features some great soulful vocal help courtesy of Lynne Jackaman. The musicians are working at a full tilt and the scorned relationship lyric works perfectly well for this closer.
The Jim Dolan Project and Times Have Changed are exactly what’s great about the world of independent music as well as the internet. Where before, the tandem’s music may have simply been consigned to the open mic night’s and karaoke clubs of the UK, now the exposure is bound to leak stateside and, if there is any honor in this world, The Jim Dolan Project will be playing a blues club near you as soon as possible. These guys are the real deal.
The Jim Dolan Project
Times Have Changed