Greg Hough, one of the founding members of Petra tells the story of how, when he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour, God’s message of “You will play for Me” came to him. John DeGroff (also a founding member) completes the story as he tells of meeting both Greg, and Bill Glover (another founding member of Petra) at Christian Training Centre in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1972. It is towards the end of that year that they got onto stage in church to play together, ministering through the medium of what is now Christian rock music.
Produced by John DeGroff, “SALT” follows on from “…demos and other moments…” released in
2015. “SALT” gives the impression of ease, or better, effortlessness. There is a playfulness in the descending arpeggios that open “Runnin’” that sets the tone of the album for me. John is a fan of progressive rock and jazz music, and having recently revisited Kansas’ “Point of Know Return” album myself, I’m loving John’s musical direction. I enjoyed how the bass guitar and organ synchronised with one another on this first track, complemented by John Schlitt (Head East, Petra – 1986 to 2005) on vocals.
I’m intrigued by John’s harmonic playing on “Sneeze”, where bass notes ring together much like they would when you strum a guitar. On this track you’ll also hear perfectly executed tempo changes; proof of a great band locked into the groove. “Dave’s Living Room” showcases the band’s lightness of touch, and is addictive like cotton candy.
“I’m Your Man” is a spacious affair, the interplay between male and female vocals a treat. This one’s got some soul to it, and is a charming favourite. It’s a moment; a musical sketch. Each choice of instrument introduces a new voice, like the acoustic guitar in “Wish I Was A Child Again”. It’s got me thinking to my own childhood, and I’m struck by something I heard said: “Life was good while my father was taking care of me.”
Again a new voice; brushes on the drums in “Silk And Cookies”. Here, two basslines play off one another. What I appreciate about John’s production work is that nothing gets muddled. Those two bass lines are neatly separated in the stereo spectrum. Forgive the curious description, but it sounds to me like some bit crushing was done during the processing, adding a nice sizzle to the bass line in my right ear. It’s not present throughout the song, which tells me that careful thought was given to how each voice may be enhanced, from moment to moment.
There’s a South African jazz trio called Tananas, and on their album “Orchestra Mundo” there is a presence to Gito Baloi’s bass that I also hear on “Celebrity Squat Thrust”. It’s like the bass guitar is doubled, and resonating in both ears. What I also like is how the electric guitar cuts through, and how it’s in contrast to the low register of the bass.
The melody line in “From Yes To No And Back Again” is off-kilter; the aural equivalent of a dutch tilt. The lyrics tell of indecision; of having to choose to conform to societal norms, or not. The musical composition also personifies this push and pull, which elevates this offering to a whole other level of musicality.
That ease I mentioned earlier is for me personified in the stripped down “Theme For A Perfect Day”, where the harmonica carries the melody. Ever listen to Chris Rea’s album, “Auberge”? At the end of John DeGroff’s “SALT” I have the same sense of breathing a little easier. I hope you would excuse the cliché when I say, “Thank you for the music.”
In my book, this is a perfect 10.
Written by Karakul
3. Dave’s Living Room
4. I’m Your Man
5. Wish I Was A Child Again
6. Silk And Cookies
7. Celebrity Squat Thrust
8. From Yes To No And Back Again
9. Theme For A Perfect Day
Acoustic Guitar – John DeGroff (tracks: 2, 5, 9)
Bass Guitar [All Manner Of Bass Guitars On All Tracks] – John DeGroff
Drums – Curtis George
Flute – Jennifer Savage (tracks: 6)
Guitar – Dan Leu (tracks: 1, 4, 8), Kevin Kyle (tracks: 7) Harmonica – Garry Jones (tracks: 9)
Lap Steel Guitar – Eddie Prather (tracks: 5) Slide Guitar – Dan Leu (tracks: 5)
Vocals – John Schlitt (tracks: 1, 4, 8) Backing vocals (female) – not disclosed
Written-By [All Music Written By … Except Where Indicated] – John DeGroff
Producer – Eddie Prather, John DeGroff
Recorded By, Mixed By, Mastered By – Eddie Prather
Executive-Producer – Shawn Browning
Record Label: Rottweiler Records
“…demos and other moments…” (2015)
John DeGroff And Friends Featuring John Schlitt – “SALT” (full length, 2018)