When Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed categorized the up-tempo R&B records he was spinning as “rock and roll” in 1951, few could foresee that his genre description would label a revolution.
Will the term “boogie soul” have the same impact? Too early to tell. In the meantime, it’s a tag owned by Lockport trio Handsome Jack, whose filthy brand of bopping, blues-ensconced rock boasts its own classification.
Comprised of lead guitarist and vocalist Jamison Passuite, bassist Joey Verdonselli and new drummer Ben Hayes (who joined in February), the band has peddled its poignant sound alongside heavy hitters like the Sheepdogs and Hold Steady, and has lured plenty of listeners with the smoke and sway of 2014’s “Do What Comes Naturally."
Now working on new music and home after touring dates throughout the Northeast, Handsome Jack will open for Monster Truck (from Hamilton, Ont.) at 7 p.m. May 28 in Town Ballroom. Lead guitarist and vocalist Jamison Passuite recently took some time to discuss the band’s Richard Linklater-compatible blues vibe, growing as songwriters, and growing its sound on the road.
Question: If boogie soul becomes its own genre, who are some other bands who could join that designation?
Answer: Patrick Boissel at Alive Records is the one who came up with that moniker to describe us, and I'd say it's pretty accurate. The Blackfoot Gypsies are an awesome band out of Nashville, Tennessee [whose sound] fits that description pretty well, too.
Q: None of you guys grew up in the '70s, yet a lot of your work — particularly single "Right On" — seems like it'd be right at home on the set of "Dazed and Confused." How do you explain this?
A: I'd say that a lot of our influences come from the same places bands from the sixties and seventies we're drawing on. For example, I'm so into the old blues legends like Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. I wish I could sing and play more like them, but it just comes out like it comes out.
Q: You’re currently working on a new album. How does it transition from "Do What Comes Naturally"?
A: The next album will have a similar vibe overall, but we learned a lot writing the last one. Our writing and playing is something we are constantly trying to improve, and I feel like Handsome Jack is a whole new beast nowadays.
Q: You worked with the Buffalo Killers’ Zachary Gabbard on your last album. How much did his band's sound influence your work?
A: Zachary's role was basically lending his ear and saying, "hey something doesn't sound right with that take,” “try redoing it or reworking a part,” “that vocal line is lame think of something else to say," or occasionally, "hey that was [expletive] awesome."
It's crucial to have someone who hasn't been obsessing over the tracks for months to give you an honest, outside perspective you can trust. He's been an incredible help for us over the years and we owe him a lot of thanks — and not just for producing the album.
Q: You’ve been touring off that album for over two years. How has its sound bloomed on the road?
A: Most notably, the vocals are delivered with a lot more [strength], and we do harmonies now that didn't make it onto the album. Also, the addition of Ben has let us see the songs in a new light. We're excited about the new tunes but we still have a blast playing the songs from the last album.
Q: What's been your most memorable on-stage moment this tour?
A: Our last gig in D.C. comes to mind because it took about two hours to park the van, I broke two strings, and the owner of the club was a huge [expletive] to us — but we still managed to keep our cool and play an awesome show. So either that, or the time Ben played a drum solo with chopsticks in Rochester.
Who: Handsome Jack and Monster Truck
When: 7 p.m. May 28
Where: Town Ballroom (681 Main St.)