Every so often in the world of Canadian blues a project comes along that captures the imagination. Say for example three individual artists, each amazing on their own right, combine to create an entirely new entity, a power trio that generates incredible buzz. That is HOROJO Trio in a nutshell.

When I heard that drummer Jamie Holmes, keyboardist Jeff Rogers, and guitarist JW Jones had gotten together to jam, I confess I was somewhat intrigued as to what they could create, given the right atmosphere (wish I could have been there to see and hear it). They have moved beyond just jamming and are going to  Set The Record straight with their debut album. 

The beauty of this group’s sound is they go way beyond the standard perception of the trio. It’s more than just bass, drums and guitar. The keys, in particular, present an added dimension to my ear.

JW’s award-winning six string skills are beyond question, as are Jamie’s impeccable rhythms. The X factor is Jeff’s brilliant keys and vocals, pulling it all together into one sweet soulful package. Recorded live off the floor, it is an extension of the jams that inspired it.

When you add in the fact that 9 of 11 songs were co-written with Dick Cooper and two of them were written with Juno Award winner Steve Strongman, you have a recipe for success!

The album opens with the high energy of “Man Of Steel”. A finger-snapping, toe-tapping romp sure to set your heart pumping, it’s the perfect opener, catchy as hell. Up next the RnB sound of “A Little Goes A Long Way”, a perfect example of why these guys won Best Band at the 2020 International Blues Challenge. City wise and soul soaked, the sound is genuine and impeccably clean.

The third cut on the album is also the title track, ‘Set The Record Straight’. By this point in the record you start to realize you have fallen into something special here. Jeff Rogers’ vocal performance is incredible on this track. I have always said that the best blues singers sound like they believe every word they are singing… this is a perfect example!

Up next is the smooth sound of “Stay Crazy”, a song that could very well have been written for me. Soulful and passionate vocals and a cool groove make this cut a balm for the heart, especially in our pandemic ravaged world.

The 5th cut has a smoky downtown sound, drenched in the sweat of the night owls who haunt the shadows in seedy bars. Those who have hidden in “The Night” know exactly what this song is all about. The quest for refuge in a world where the house always wins. JW’s solo here is brilliant, just enough to accentuate the style of the song without unnecessary complication.

Up next a driving beat and clean guitar ushers in “Hard as I Can”, a tribute to best efforts in a rough and indifferent world. An anthem to doing your best for those you love, and ultimately, for yourself.

Up next a swampy little number called “Running”. It swings and sways reminiscent of the mirky depths of the deep bayou. The 8th cut, “Ragman’s Blues” has an easy groove that can best be described as Too Cool To Fool. It jitters and jives with a mind of its own.

“Give and Take” powers in, then settles into a cool jam that would be right at home in any blues bar in North America. One of the things that makes this album such a sonic adventure is how each player has that moment to shine, in this case, JW’s guitar. The 9th cut, “Something You Should Know” has a funky groove that showcases Jamie’s solid rhythm as the bed rock of a band that doesn’t need a bass to be cool.

The final cut is “Real Deal”, a driving rocker that smooths out to a solid blues groove. The perfect closer to this powerful debut album and the bold statement that HOROJO Trio are the Real Deal.  

One thing about a project like this, if the dynamic is right, each artist brings their ‘A’ game to the table and you end up getting the best of all three worlds. That is what HOROJO Trio have accomplished with  Set The Record. (Terry Parsons)