By Contributing Photographer and Writer- Mark Ashe
Johnny & The Bootlegs, a self proclaimed "NYC-Blues-Punk-Rock" outfit has just released their self-titled EP, Johnny & The Bootlegs. J&TB are a power trio consisting of John Santiago on vocals and lead guitar, Erik Neuberger on vocals and bass guitar with Danny Kenny and Ryan Adams on drums. Stemming from the vision of Santiago, J&TB are the headline act of JSantiMusic LLC.
The debut EP is a collection of nine exciting songs from the New York City based band. J&TB play straight forward, no frills, soul infused rock n' roll, with flashes of Nirvana, The Doors and Soundgarden. J&TB create a unique sound with only a guitar, bass and drums. While listening to J&TB, jam bands come to mind with a strong influence from classic rock song structure. Santiago’s vocals are intense at times and moody at others cascading from soft whispers to shrill screams in tracks such as "Ride."
The EP starts off with a quick two-minute ditty called "Cold Cut Sandwiches." The song has a surf-rock vibe a la Ventures, with quick guitar riffs and some fun lyrics that have little to do with the title of the song. Next up is "Always Late"; a fun, rockin’ song about a couple that always, as the title suggests, are late for meeting each other. By the end of the song the narrator has had enough and finally just tells it like it is. I love the final line of the song which I'm not going to write here. You’ll have to listen to it yourself to hear the explicit and somewhat inappropriate rationalization of tardiness. "Heartless" is the third song, which is the heaviest of the songs and offers a new take on forbidden love.
“And as I turned to leave your room, I could smell your sweet perfume. But it’s coming back, it’s coming way too soon, I left my heart in your hotel.”
There’s a great enchanting guitar solo at the end of the song and you can feel the passion in the guitar riffs.
"One Track Mind" is up next and it could be considered the single for the EP, although there’s no formal single due to the band's plan to release one song per month, following the EP. The music video for "One Track Mind" was just released which is most likely to get the most plays across social media platforms. The song has a ska flair to it and is one of the best songs to dance to at the club or when you see Johnny & The Bootlegs live. These first four songs are all written by John Santiago.
The only song on the EP that is written and sung by Neuberger is Whisky En El Castillo. Neuberger sings with great intensity. It’s a country-blues type song that really hits the mark, with some wicked guest guitar work by Jeff Berner (Psychic TV, Chris Cubeta and The Liars Club), the bands recording engineer (Studio G, Brooklyn) and long time friend of Santiago.
The second half of the EP starts off with "Hound Dog Trail." An acoustic track with just Santiago’s guitar and vocals positioning a nice, mellow follow up from Whisky En El Castillo.
A song seemingly about dichotomy, loneliness and separation, "Homebody Blues" is up next and is the groups coining blues effort, featuring New York's Delta blues expert Karl Schwarz on dobro guitar. The sullen vibe of "Homebody" and its haunting main guitar riff, makes it the deeper, NYC driven track on the album, whereas the rest has a very southern feel to it. Up next is a great, fast, fun song Womanizer which starts off…
“He’s got, too many women try to juggle them all alone. One’s gonna kick him and one’s gonna punch him and one’s gonna leave him in a bloody ditch.”
That pretty much tells the story of the song. A fast paced dance number that is going to have the live audiences all on their feet dancing.
"Ride" is a Stevie Ray Vaughan & Jimi Hendrix inspired tune with some real solid guitar work by Santiago and Berner trading riffs back and forth throughout. A song about continuing on, despite heartbreak or disappointment, the message rings clear with the up and down of Santiago's vocal tones, similar to a wave.
Johnny & The Bootlegs, have a great future ahead of themselves. The EP is a refreshing, and outstanding first record, bringing a classic rock style to current sound. They’ll be on tour in the Tri-state area in late fall and through the south in early 2018, so be sure to check them out. You can find Johnny & The Bootlegs pressed on vinyl at select boutique shops in NYC and for sale at their live shows.
You can listen to J&TB at any of the online sites below or see them live at Bowery Electric, NYC on Thursday, 11/9/2017.
Johnny and the Bootlegs Information: