In the current musical climate of cut and packaged entertainers designed for quick consumption, the John Wasem Band is like a welcoming home-cooked meal spread across a Southern table
Fitting, as frontman and founder John Harlan Wasem was born in small-town Tennessee. The folk-infused ballads of John Wasem Band (JWB) take the elegant guitar picking, lyrical poetry and “everyman” sensibility found in traditional Southern genres and elevate them with the rawness found only within real talent. A traveling singer-songwriter since 2000, self-taught guitarist Wasem dedicated himself in the early years to constant creative release through playing 150 shows per year, relentlessly touring the South, Midwest, East and West. He acquired a versatility honed by the varying solo, duo, trio and full-band acoustic and electric performances delivered at venues ranging small clubs to major festivals. This passion paid off. Following his decision to move to Chicago and immerse himself in that city’s sweltering roots-rock underground, he caught the attention of several renowned Chicago musicians wanting to offer their talents
This collaboration resulted in 2006’s acclaimed LP The Sparrow Four Sessions, with veteran producer Jim Reeves (Allman Brothers, ZZ Top, Joe Cocker) at the helm. Mike Mirro, former drummer for national scene stalwarts Umphrey’s McGee; Berklee School of Music guitar wunderkind Marcus Rezak, also of Chicago’s The Hue; and bassist Matt Longbons previously of international cult favorite The Ghettobillies rounded out the all-star roster. Guest appearances were rich, as Umphrey’s McGee’s keyboardist and vocalist Joel Cummins and percussionist Matt Katzfey of touring sensation 56 Hope Road lent a hand. The Sparrow Four Sessions has been continuously praised for its nuance, emotional lucidity, and ability to swing from quiet, elegant moods to the raucousness of unadulterated rock n’ roll. In late 2006, formally trained jazz virtuoso Justin Walter Powell joined the band to replace Cummins, and is more than capable of filling such large shoes
It has been a high-octane ride for JWB ever since. The band has headlined shows at such historic Chicago venues as Double Door, Martyrs’, Abbey Pub and Wise Fools Pub, played to a packed house at the venerated House of Blues, appeared at festivals throughout the country including Dogstock in Melvern, Kansas, and been awarded increasing local and national press. They’ve shared stages with national acts such as Ryan Montbleau Band, Fareed Haque Group, Umphrey’s McGee and Cornmeal. Perhaps most exciting is the loyal fanbase that’s sprung up around their unceasingly surprising live show, wherein complicated fretwork melds with complicated emotions, and sophisticated improvisation is paramount. They owe no loyalty to the jamband scene, the folk scene, or the classic and psychedelic rock scenes, but rather breathe new life into them all. With a new CD in the works and an extensive US and UK tour currently being booked, the John Wasem Band has walked through the proverbial door, with lovers of authenticity ready to extend a hand.