JP Soars

Published on November 12th, 2017

JP Soars

JP SOARS

For scorching Boca Raton bluesman JP Soars, serendipity arrived on a muggy Memphis night in 2009, when his band the Red Hots won first place in the International Blues Challenge competition. Soars himself also picked up a best guitarist crown that night — no small accomplishment for a guy who had first sharpened his guitar pick not on blues but in the metal bands Raped Ape, Divine Empire and Paingod.

”Sometimes you’re the mule, and sometimes you’re the plow,” Soars growls on the fiery title track off 2014’s “Full Moon Night in Memphis,” recalling with a full-throated rasp the moment he won the career-changing awards. “After that full moon night in Memphis, things won’t ever be the same.” They were not, and Soars and company have toured relentlessly ever since. Sludgy, gritty and nasty, the 14 songs on “Memphis” snap like firecrackers, whether paying homage to grit (and grass, on the jazzy “Reefer Man”), roasting ex-lovers (the slow-burning “Mean Old World”) or lamenting constant travel (the twangy “The Road Has Got Me Down”).

Even as a budding metal-band shredder, the Cedarville, Ark.-raised Soars was grooving on Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker and Jesse May Hemphill. But it was B.B. King who won him over. In a raffle at a West Palm Beach record store in 1988, Soars scored a guitar and two backstage passes to a King concert to have it signed.

Soars and his signature cigar-box guitar have been mainstays at Lake Worth’s Bamboo Room, Fort Lauderdale’s Poor House and the now-defunct Backroom Blues Bar in Delray Beach. Along with Red Hots bassist Cleveland Frederick and drummer Chris Peet, Soars is still tinkering with a new album (still untitled) and lending his tight licks to Southern Hospitality, the roots-rock supergroup he formed with lap-steel guitarist Damon Fowler and keyboardist Victor Wainwright. (Southern’s 2013 album, “Easy Livin’,” peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Blues chart). The road may be never-ending for Soars and company, but since that night in Memphis, blues fans await him at every stop.

Ray’s Downtown presents JP Soars and the Red Hots November 12 at Voltaire in West Palm Beach.
~ John Doane

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