Jerry Joseph and band on the road again

— Jerry Joseph was on the run Wednesday in Little Rock, Ark. When he answered his cell phone, Joseph was climbing into his van, fleeing tornado alarms.

"I have no idea what's going on," he said, sounding a little frazzled and saying tornado warnings have been announced.

He and his band, the Jackmormons, played a gig there the night before, supporting their fifth release, "Conscious Contact," a gritty, rock 'n' roll album that could be one of the best in Joseph's long career.

But at this second, he wasn't quite prepared to chat about it at least until his van made it onto a Little Rock highway.

"It doesn't look that bad out here," he said, commenting about the sky.

Once he was rolling down the road, Joseph relaxed. After all, he was in one of his elements, tornado warning or not. The 41 year-old guitar player and songwriter has been on the road playing shows for years. In the mid-'80s, he led a band out of Boulder originally playing ski towns, including Steamboat numerous times called Little Women to some success. But he has played in bands since he was 12. "Conscious Contact" is the 13th album Joseph has had a hand in.

"This is pretty much what I've been doing my whole life," he said.

Since 1990, Joseph and his band, Junior Ruppel on bass and Brad Rosen on drums, have lived in Portland, Ore. Though critics are describing their music as having strong Southern influences, it's clear that the melodic punk sound of the Northwest music scene is not left out of "Conscious Contact."

"I would think that we were more influenced with the scene around us a lot of stuff with a lot of muscle behind it," he said.

David Barbe, former bassist of the great Bob Mould-led Sugar, also engineered the album.

As of late though, Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons have been opening for Gov't Mule and Widespread Panic. The producer of those bands, David School, produced "Conscious Contact," which explains the Southern rock tag.

But not to say Joseph and Jackmormons didn't pick up some pointers from the jam bands and their producer.

From Gov't Mule, Joseph said he learned not to worry about turning up the amps as high as they can go. From Widespread, well, Joseph admits his band has learned "how to act."

"They are just really good friends, and they are a bunch of southern gentlemen," he said.

But Joseph's three-piece band, which comes to the Wolf Den next week, doesn't want to sound like any one style. Instead, they want to sound like themselves. With so many years in the business, Joseph said the best thing you can do is to keep striving to expand and change your sound.

"At the same time, I think you always have to strive to sound like yourself, to sound unique," he said.

Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons play Thursday at the Wolf Den Tavern in the height of mud season, which Joseph said is fine.

"It will be nice to be back (in Steamboat). It's my favorite time of year. I'd rather play to the people who live there than to 5,000 Texans," he said.

Joseph then cautioned himself after that statement, as his van was headed toward Dallas to do another show.

"I guess that's who I'll be playing to tomorrow night."

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