JD & the Straight Shot perform an impressive array of authentic Americana tunes both on stage and on their latest LP, Ballyhoo!. Led by vocalist/guitarist Jim Dolan, this acoustic group delves deeply into the traditional genres of country, blues and bluegrass with the slightest dash of modern elements to forge an entertaining and enriching musical experience. The group is touring with Joe Walsh through the summer of 2016 and we caught their show in Lancaster on Sunday, July 31st.
The son of the founder of Cablevision, Dolan started off as a musician several decades ago but eventually joined the family business as chief executive officer of sports properties and Executive Chairman of Madison Square Garden Company. He supervises the day-to-day operations of several professional New York sports franchises (the Knicks of the NBA, the Rangers of the NHL and the Liberty of the WNBA) as well as a couple of regional sports networks and the fast rising AMC network.
Dolan founded the group in the early 2000s with their debut album, Nothing to Hide released in 2005. This was followed by the albums Right On Time in 2008 and Can’t Make Tears in 2011, the latter’s title track providing the theme song for the AMC television show Hell on Wheels. In 2014, JD & the Straight Shot released their fourth LP, Where I’ve Been, which was produced by Joe Walsh and brought the group further national attention as they toured alongside top-notch groups like The Eagles, The Allman Brothers Band and ZZ Top. That album also included the song “Hard to Find” which was featured in the film St. Vincent starring Bill Murray.
Most of the group’s live show on July 31st consisted of tracks from their fifth album, Ballyhoo!, which was released in January 2016. Produced by Chuck Ainlay, the original material on this album was written by Dolan along with guitarist/vocalist Marc Copely, bassist Byron House and violinist Erin Slaver. Also performing on the album is JD’s son, Aiden Dolan and the live show features percussionist Shawn Pelton, who has recorded with artists such as Billy Joel, Van Morrison, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Hall and Oates and Johnny Cash and who has been the longtime drummer in the house band for Saturday Night Live.
The live show started off with the same song which kicks off Ballyhoo!, “Empty”. This slide-acoustic spiritual features multiple fine musical elements and some nice harmonized vocals. “Better Find a Church” starts with great double bass riff and remains laid back and rootsy throughout. Dolan performs dual lead vocals with Slaver and Copely provides a fantastic acoustic lead guitar later on. “Perdition” is another Americana/Gospel track with an excellent fiddle lead while the upbeat bluegrass of “Glide” reflects on the pure feeling of of childhood joy. Dolan’s finest vocal performance may be on the Spirit cover song “Nature’s Way”, which contains a lead fiddle riff, while those same vocals may be a bit rough on the sad acoustic ballad “Don’t Waste My Time”. The title track “Ballyhoo” is a tongue-n-cheek anthem against ridicule and was a crowd favorite live with its accelerating jam session. Winding down the album, “Here He Comes” is a tribute to Johnny Cash while the closer “I’ll See You Again” wraps up the album on a hopeful note.
JD & the Straight Shot will continue to tour with Joe Walsh in support of Ballyhoo! with dates booked through September.