James Scott Bullard: Full Tilt Boogie (Big Mavis Music) (April 27, 2018 Release Date)
Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
If you are looking for your next honky tonk hero, I think I may have found him. His name is Jame Scott Bullard (JSB) and he is pure, 24 karat gold. Not only does JSB look the part, he has lived it. The songs all tell JSB’s story. He used to abuse alcohol and drugs, but now his energy is spent building and developing his art. He is very versatile as well. He can sing honky tonk, outlaw, punk, metal, and good old rock and roll. If JSB were a baseball player, he would be described as a “five tool player”.
There are definitely a wide variety of influences for JSB. He lists his early musical influences as Elvis, Waylon, and Kiss. I can see and hear all three of those. Kiss for the showman aspect and some good rock and roll guitar. I also hear some Skynyrd for sure. Not a replica, but a synthesis of the good aspects. I am specifically referring to boogie woogie and the hard driving guitar. It definitely makes you want to move. I suggested changing the name to “Boot Scoot Boogie” because of the ability to make people dance, but no takers.
I don’t think any song personifies this album better than the opening track. Lord, Have Mercy (Track 1). It is the amuse-bouche in this ten course meal. This is the first course and it is usually a small bite of something very powerful, flavorful, and delicious. It is used as a primer to get people ready for what is about to unfold. I think amuse-bouche is a perfect way to describe the opening number, which is about as perfect of an anthem as you can get.
James is an outlaw country artist, first and foremost. It is only fitting that there be at least one rowdy, outlaw, and honky tonk number to get a little rowdy. Jesus, Jail, Or Texas (Track 6) is a perfect honk tonk shit kicking, whale of a song. The slide guitar work on this song is the hero. It’s some of the cleanest, best sounding slide I have heard on an album in quite a while. This is a song that reminisces about some old girlfriends and what they are doing now. This is then tied into a break up with the current girlfriend. A cautionary tale.
The last song on the album Back To You (Track 10) is a song that really could be considered one of the best in this decade. On this one, I hear some serious Marshall Tucker influence. Both JSB and Marshall Tucker founders have roots in South Carolina. Coincidence? I think not. I think JSB got some serious musical chops by listening to those amazing Marshall Tucker records of the early 70s. Even the dual guitar attack is reminiscent of the sound that was quite prevalent in southern rock and country during the glory days.
I think JSB is the guy that can bring back the glory days. Full Tilt Boogie is definitely a very strong contender for one of the best of 2018. One of my goals this years is to see JSB live, in living color. I will make good on that New Year’s resolution and I urge you to do the same. No, not my New Year’s resolution, to see JSB! This is also a chance to get one of the top albums of 2018 before anyone else gets wind of it. Doesn’t it feel good to be first sometimes?