If you’re a living, breathing rock and roll diehard with a pulse just about anywhere across this great country of ours—no one embodies that drive, determination and lifestyle better than JUDGE JACKSON, whose balls-to-the-wall classic take
on a noble tradition is the soundtrack to your life. For more than a decade, through four albums, a thousand shows (celebrating that milestone, appropriately enough, at the 27th Laughlin River Run), and shows with Gov’t Mule, Doobie Bros., Cheap Trick, Buckcherry, Army of Anyone, UFO and Joe Bonamassa, among others, this hard-driving quartet’s music can be heard on a variety of TV shows, including the Super Bowl, NHL and NBA playoffs, as well as NASCAR.
With their fifth album, Drive, JUDGE JACKSON have put all that road work to good use, with an eclectic collection that doesn’t just show off their patented hard rock rave-ups on songs like the title track, “Just Because,” “Radio” and “Letting Go,” but demonstrates the band’s roots in funk-blues (“The End”), acoustic folk (“Me Then You”) and even country-twang (“Meant to Be”).
Produced, engineered and mixed once more by frequent collaborator John Hiler [Stephen Stills, Willie Dixon, Smashing Pumpkins], Drive wears JUDGE JACKSON’s passion for music and the camaraderie of rock on its sleeve. From guitarist Lee Jackson’s slashing power chords, J.J. Garcia’s pounding drums and Brian James’ bass rumble of “Just Because,” as singer Todd McTavish relates the tale of a stripper “who does what she does/just because it pays the rent,” and the revved-up joys of home in “The River” to the Black Sabbath-meets AC/DC gnarly guitar pyrotechnics of “Radio,” about the thrill of hearing your record on the air, to the Guns N’ Roses flair of “Letting Go,” with its vow of “letting go to what I’ve left behind,” Judge Jackson remain true to their rock and roll beliefs.
The roots of JUDGE JACKSON can be traced back to 1995, when vocalist/lyricist McTavish, who came to town from Canada, where he once played in a band that featured Shania Twain as back-up vocalist, joined up with guitarist/songwriter Jackson in L.A. to tirelessly play the town’s club circuit, where they steadily built a devoted local following. By 1998, the band released its debut album, followed shortly thereafter by a second CD, 8068. Drummer Garcia joined the group shortly after the release of JUDGE JACKSON’s third CD, One Diamond, which marked the band’s multimedia breakthrough, with “Amazing” receiving airplay on more than 30 stations across the U.S., while “Times Been Changing” was featured on NBC’s popular comedy My Name Is Earl. Still another track, “King,” is now the theme to the Speed Channel NASCAR program, Victory Lane, viewed by more than a million fans every Sunday.
From the band’s self-titled fourth album, released in March, 2007, “Lift the Bottle” and “Rock N’ Roll” have been featured on several Fox Sports Network promos and programs. In addition, the group wrote and recorded a brand-new song, “Get Busy,” for Fox Sports’ college football telecasts.
And while they’ve been the best-kept secret on the L.A. rock scene, JUDGE JACKSON is starting to get some recognition. The group’s last album was named “Best CD of the Year” in the 5th Annual All Access Magazine Awards. Since then, the group has added bassist Brian James, formerly of The Rocking Scoundrels and Stone, to replace longtime member Ryan Rogers. On his rare time away from JUDGE JACKSON, the band’s songwriter McTavish has been collaborating with other artists, including Motley Crue’s Mick Mars.
Drive offers conclusive proof JUDGE JACKSON still has their eye on the prize, with a powerful set of songs that runs the gamut from the joys of friendship (the Journey-meets-The Who anthem, “Pickin’ Me Up), the road (“Drive”), home (“The River”), traveling music (“Radio”) and falling in love (“Head Over Heels”) to the sorrows of regret (“Me Then You” “Meant to Be,” with a gorgeous duet featuring Julia Henry) and breaking up (“Letting Go,” “The End”), expressed as only a rock band knows how—with soaring vocals, churning guitars, and a rhythm section that punches you in the gut.
The album is the perfect accompaniment to the warm weather, which, come to think of it, means 12 months a year in sunny SoCal. “I drink too much/I like to cuss/Always good at getting down and dirty/And having fun/In that summer sun/Chasing girls that are all so purdy,” sings McTavish, and you couldn’t come up with a better description of the way listening to JUDGE JACKSON’s music makes you feel. It’s rock and roll the way it’s meant to be.