This Southern country rock disc is a set of two intertwined halves. There is superb, squealing guitar work, but a bit of an identity crisis.

Label: Devil’s Blade Records
Time: 11 tracks /44  mins.

Jericho Summer are based around guitarist/writer/ producer Jay Zeffin and his wife Vanessa Joy, with Guy Lancaster playing solid Hammond, alongside drummer/pianist John Marcangelo and guitarist Rodders Godders. But quite how much guitar is from Godders or Zeffin is unclear, thanks to some very strong session players. Albert Lee and Guns N’ Roses guitarist Richard Fortus contribute, as do Thin Lizzy (reformed) bassist Marco Mendoza and fiddle player Stuart Duncan.

Distinctly Southern, there is grit here, with some phenomenal layered guitar work, whether the powerfully held-back, air-guitar-inducing, low-slung slide riff of “Running Free” or the more restrained, spacious fills on the ballad “Lonely Town.”

The country side is largely the domain of session singer Joy, who has starred as Mary Magdalene in an unspecified production of Jesus Christ Superstar and won unspecified singing awards.

The main problem for me is that the two styles mix as well as oil and water. Zeffin’s gritty vocals work perfectly with the firestorm of guitar, but as soon as Joy starts singing, the whole mood changes. The voice simply does not fit. It’s a bit like asking Emmylou Harris to front ZZ Top or Iron Maiden. In a split second, she can reduce a storming piece of rock to sounding like a band playing a bar, while the punters are playing pool –especially on the somewhat corny title track.

As if to underline the identity crisis, Zeffin and Joy are pictured in leathers on the back of the disc, but inside, Joy’s flowery top and wide-brimmed hat tell another story.

It’s also a shame in that the vocals cover up too much of the guitar work, which is well worth hearing.

“Lonely Town,” for me, is the only place where the pairing really works, as it is more country than rock, and so the accompanying guitar lines are high-grade decoration.  

Likewise, “Does It Matter” is a fine country track, with the fiddle making another helpful contribution and Joy sounding far more in place.

The frankly shoddy and predictable lyrics do not help their cause, with run-‘em-off-in-ten-minutes lines like “You know I need you like the desert needs the rain” and “Pray to the Lord and dance with the devil / You’re gonna burn in hell.”

So if you love country with attitude, this is a place to look, but if the rock is what appeals, you will likely be highly frustrated. Now, if they were to release an instrumental version, that would be another matter...

Derek Walker