Jimmy Adler


The Devil’s Music

Everything you need to know about blues guitar master Jimmy Adler and his style as a performer can be understood with a single quote from the Pittsburgh native.

“Listening to blues is a spiritual experience.  Blues music expresses the emotions of the human condition and makes one feel good.  When I play blues I am always reaching for that special feel good place.”

Not surprisingly a Jimmy Adler Band performance has the feel and sound of a southern tent revival. The shouts and howls from the audience (not to mention his vocals and guitars) seem to be testimonials to a higher power. The only thing missing is a spirited passing around of the collection plate.

The connection between the Blues and gospel music is stronger than many would suspect given that the blues has often been deemed ‘The Devil’s music.’ In fact, the two seemingly opposite worlds of these genres are so closely tied that Wikipedia has an entire entry called Gospel Blues (or Holy Blues), briefly detailing the lives and careers of such luminaries as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, Sam Collins, Josh White, Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Willie Mctell, Bukka White, Sleepy John Estes and Skip James. The entry mentions that many of these artists released songs and albums under pseudonyms – lest their Holy music be tarnished by their reputations as sinister blues musicians.

Adler’s music does not strictly qualify as gospel blues because his subject matter doesn’t drift into explicitly religious content. But don’t be fooled. The lyrics may not praise the lord, but spirit is there. And even without a hymnal, the audience feels every note of this revival.

Birth of the Adler and his Blues

jimmy-adlerJimmy Adler’s early life was pretty far from what one would imagine as the origins of an itinerant blues man. His regular paychecks came not from a blues club in the backwoods of Alabama, but from the Pittsburgh School for the Creative and Performing Arts where James Addlespurger – yes that’s the name he was born with – taught English. As you might imagine, the first order of business before becoming a bluesman, was a name change. Thus Jimmy Adler was born. The reason was simple: Adler was easier to spell, a lesson he’d learned from his mother who used the shortened version of their surname when ordering something over the phone.

The next step was building his chops. But as anyone familiar with Adler’s highly unique style knows, that part was no problem.

Kings and Stones

When it comes to influences, those who impacted the skills of young Jimmy came from all over the map. He has understandably high praise for the Three Kings, Acknowledging BB for teaching everyone how to “act in a dignified manner both on and off the stage,” respecting Freddie’s brain as an enormously gifted composer and admiring Albert’s genius at bending the string to just the right tone.

Recommended Album
Jimmy Adler and his band don’t indicate exactly where this Grease Alley is located, but they sure make it sound like a tasty place. Blues albums don’t get more fun and engagingly lightweight than this latest effort of Adler and his amply skilled band.
Adler’s vocals are unlikely to steel the spotlight from his guitar playing skills or the instrumental prowess of his band mates, but the man knows how to deliver lyrics that remind us all how much fun the blues can be. Grease Alley may not pack the nutritional content of other efforts but, this greasy meal tastes heavenly.

Grease Alley

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But like many of his generation, the first taste of the blues came from across the pond. The UK’s Rolling Stones. Citing Keith Richard’s guitar solo on “Sympathy for the Devil,” as an early solo that he took the time to learn. Since then, Adler has paved the way to his own sound and his own career. But he’s still the same kid from Pittsburgh with the hard-to-spell name. As his albums shoot up the charts, he maintains his teaching position at the Pittsburgh School for the Creative and Performing Arts, undoubtedly instructing today’s young talents with the same passion he heard from the Stones, the Three Kings and a host of other blues legends.

Before the bell rings, we should perhaps end with the wise words of Mr. Adler who has this to say about the lasting power of the blues: “The blues is the truth.  It is pure and honest.  I wish that it will last forevermore.”