His Own Groove

Charleston City Paper | September 30, 2006
These days, New York-based singer, guitarist, and songwriter Jamie McLean may be best known among jam band fans as the guitarist for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, but he’s about to break through as a proper bandleader in his own right.

“The Jamie McLean band is definitely its own animal,” says the frontman, speaking from Boulder, Colo., the last stop on the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s recent eight-week tour. “As far as switching gears from one band to the other, it’s pretty simple for me. It’s like putting on a favorite pair of slippers or something. If anything, it might be more of a switch to get off of a Jamie McLean Band tour and jump in with the Dozen. I’ve been doing that for five years, so playing my music with this band comes easily. The mental and physical fatigue is tougher to deal with.”

McLean, 29, has been playing rhythm and lead guitar with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band for five years. While he was living in Boulder, playing in bands with his brother, Carter, he found himself doing opening slots for the Dozen. Eventually, they invited him up on stage for a jam session that lasted the entire evening. That led to another show. And then another. “After a gig in Boulder at the Fox Theatre, they said, ‘Come do Vail and Aspen with us,” he says. “That led to a gig in San Francisco with the Funky Meters.”

The guitarist credits his time and experiences with the Dirty Dozen — some of whom are over twice his age — for inspiring his own songwriting ideas and technique — talents he utilizes in a tighter “rock band” setting.

“You can’t help but pick up some great things from those guys when you get on stage with them,” McLean says of his colleagues in the Dirty Dozen. “They’ve taught me a hell of a lot — not just about music and playing, but also about life in general. The whole New Orleans culture was something I was always familiar with, but now I can kinda say that I’m a part of it. That’s not the kind of education you get at grad school or something; it’s definitely a life experience.”

The Jamie McLean Band officially came together in late 2003 when Jamie and brother Carter began shaping some of Jamie’s song ideas into fully-arranged pieces. They enlisted bassist Derek Layes and keyboardist Jon Solo in time to record their first studio album. The 11-song This Time Around is a honkin’ collection of Southern-style blues rock, Americana, and soul … as bawdy as anything the Black Crowes tried to snag from The Faces or The Stones circa Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street and as groovy and gutsy as Bowie’s Young Americans.

“It was the kind of thing that came together gradually,” McLean explains. “It’s more rock and more vocal-oriented and more song-oriented. We recorded this record last January and that was the real beginning of the band. In just the last few months, we’ve started touring heavily and the band became more focused.

“Taking care of logistics is tougher and I have to step up and play road manager a bit,” he adds. “ But it’s more fun than anything. It doesn’t really feel like work. The four of us have a blast on the road and it’s real exciting to get to play your own stuff in front of people.”

Charleston City Paper

Founded in 1997, the locally owned and operated City Paper is Charleston's only weekly alternative newspaper and the second-largest publication in the metro Charleston area. Reaching a strong mix of active, affluent locals and tourists, the City Paper has thrived...
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