The origin of Atlanta-based four-piece Jacks River Band comes off as a veritable paean to perseverance; guitarist Bryan Haines and keyboardist/vocalist James Deveau had been collaborating in one fashion or another the better part of 15 years when they met drummer Brian Weinberg and bassist Clark Lee round about 2015. Weinberg and Lee had likewise worked together for 15 years across a number of different outfits.
When the two working duos came together — after so many years of not-quite-right — their collaboration was quick and effortless, and now the veteran Haines believes that after so many years in the trenches playing barroom rock ‘n’ roll, he and Deveau finally have a band that can truly go the distance.
“We met Brian first on Craig’s List, and he was the best drummer we’d ever played with,” Haines says. “He brought in Clark, and the sound James and I had been looking for, it finally clicked. We were so happy with the sound, and with the instantaneous chemistry we had with those guys. We decided almost immediately to record.”
Though it didn’t come out until June of this year, the full-length “Woodland Creatures” was the end result of that decision. It’s a powerful blues-rock platter, one that strikes a careful balance between the band’s visceral rock instincts and its jam-band proclivities.
Haines is an avowed fan of the whole Allman Brothers/Warren Haynes/Derek Trucks axis of improvisational Southern rock ‘n’ roll, and it tells in both the band’s vintage sonics, and in the extended guitar-and-organ interplay between him Deveau.
But Haines is also possessed of an old-school hesher’s heart; his fondness for off-the-beaten-path ’70s hard rock resulted in the band’s covering an old Cactus song “One Way or Another” on “Woodland Creatures.” And while some outfits seem to struggle splitting the difference between having big hooks and big riffs, and creating electrifying live improvisations, Haines says he never saw a conflict between the two ends.
“I heard an interview with Gregg Allman on the radio once, some time ago, and he said that it was all about making a good song and then having a section where you can go off,” Haines says. “So our idea in the studio is, ‘How can we record a great song, and maybe give a taste of what we’ll do live?’ But you have to have a good foundation.
“When it comes to the live show, there’s an improv factor in every song we do. There are always parts that we enter when we’re playing live, not knowing how it’s going to end, where it’s going to go. That defines live performance for us. I’m of the belief that if there’s nothing that’s of-the-moment in your set, then what are you doing? That’s not really playing live. That’s just rehearsal.”
With JRB being scarcely two years old, and with the uncharted waters of writing together as a unit still on the horizon — many of the songs on “Woodland Creatures” were older tunes that individual band members been sitting on, waiting for the the right chance to record — Haines is enthusiastic about the coming months.
“2018 will be a big year,” he says. “We’ll be back in the studio, and taking the band in a slightly different direction. The first album allowed us to work in a number of different styles. But the next one will be more focused, with a funkier feel. The thing that I love most about a lot of the rock that influenced me is the groove. If you back to all those bands in the 1970s, every one of them had a deep, funky groove, a deep blues and funk feel. Something that made you feel good.”
Jacks River Band will play Preservation Pub Saturday, Jan. 13 at 10 p.m.