Jon Short & Brandon Santini

Jon Short & Brandon Santini
Backporch Blues


By Art Tipaldi
December 2006

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Worcester’s Jon Short may be a grade school teacher by day, but give him a guitar and Short will teach anyone listening his passion: the pre-war country blues of Son House, Charley Patton or Mississippi John Hurt.

Short may be well known from his days as a musical staple at Gilrein’s, from 1998 until it closed down in 2002.

On this debut disc, Short does something every blues lover must accomplish - he packs his National Steel guitar and travels to the home of the blues - Memphis. There, he recorded in Sam Phillips Recording in April 2006.

These nine songs showcase his understanding of the country blues idiom. Songs like the opener, “Knoxville Blues,” have Short and harmonica player Brandon Santini combining classic lines from Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues” with high flyin’ acoustic guitar work.

On “Dirty Stay-Out,” Short finger picks and sings like Blind Willie McTell-meets-Tommy Johnson. On “Jackson & 44,” Short utilizes a similar ascending bass riff in his drivin’ guitar work as Santini flies up and down the reeds of his acoustic harmonica.

By recording “Jinx Blues” and “Pony Blues,” Short honors two greats of country blues, Son House and Charley Patton respectively. Short ups the tempo on both tunes and adds Santini’s harmonica to give a Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry atmosphere to the tunes.

Most of the songs feature Short’s quick paced playing, which may be a result of only having one day at the Sam Phillips Studios. He also includes a song, “100 Yard Howl,” recorded live on Beale Street at the historic Mr. Handy’s Blues Hall. Here he shows off the strapping electric slide guitar that kept him working the blues at Gilrein’s all those years.

Throughout the record, I found myself reminded of the guitar playing on early Tom Rush records, and the vocals of Catfish Keith. At 30 years old, Short is smart enough to realize that he must write his own songs and not merely Xerox country blues classics. That dedication to, and love of this pre-war genre, should make local blues fans excited about where Short will take his music.

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