A review of "In the Blue Light" by Toronto Blues Critic John Valentene.
Veteran Regina guitarist Jack Semple is not well known, no doubt because he doesn’t travel much. He augments his blues income with TV & movie soundtrack work and commercial jingles, and is rather successful at it, it seems from his web site. Already an accomplished player, he did come to Toronto in the 80’s, where he fell in with The Lincolns. After a couple of years with them, he returned to be with his family and has now released his ninth CD. He took his love of R&B back with him and that remains his bedrock style. He works with an augmented trio here, Steve Hoy on drums and Dave Chobot on bass, keyboards and bg vocals but what sets this album apart is Semple’s songwriting, very good tunes delivered in a high, plaintive voice, and that combination has propelled him up the charts in the short time since its release. “Howlin’” is a very attractive opener, a funky bit of autobiography that may be one of the finest ‘why I sing the blues’ songs extant – how he came to be ‘in the blue light’. Here, and through the whole disc, his guitar work is spectacular, how he has avoided being recognized by an MBA nomination is beyond me. Another highlight is “Lord Have Mercy”, a tender love song with a gorgeous melody and a nicely varied arrangement. “Nothin’ To Lose” is a fine blues that unfortunately has a few too many cliché phrases. “Brand New Low” is a one-chord diatribe on politicians and the media that will have lots of listeners nodding in agreement. This one is augmented with beautifully arranged horns. A perceptive slow blues, “Shut Up”, tells people to stop complaining so much, to recognize how well off they really are. The group’s virtuosity is spotlighted with a couple of knockout instrumentals: “Spankin’” & “Little Joe”. At www.jacksemple.com, he calls his rhythm section “the best groove machine north of Memphis” – you’ll have to get this one to listen for yourself but having good tunes to play surely helps!