Live Reviews: Jane Lee Hooker

Viper Room Hollywood, CA
Contact: [email protected]
Players: Dana Athens, lead vocals, keyboards; Tracy Hightop, lead, rhythm guitar; Tina T-Bone Gorin, lead, rhythm guitar; Hail Mary Zadroga, bass guitar; Lightnin’ Ron Salvo, drums.

Material: Blues-rockers Jane Lee Hooker had a lot to celebrate at their latest Viper Room performance. Not only was it lead singer and keyboardist Dana Athens’ birthday—it was also the official release date of the band’s new studio album, Rollin’. An N.Y.C.-based outfit consisting mainly of  women (except for drummer Lightnin’ Ron Salvo), JLH is a good-time, feel-good rock & roll band, and exactly the kind of fun we all could use coming on the heels of a global pandemic. 

Musicianship: With a lineup consisting of ex-members of Nashville Pussy, Bad Wizard, Helldorado, and Lez Zeppelin, it’s really no surprise that JLH brings the rock. Guitarists Tracy Hightop and Tina T-Bone Gorin are solid rhythm players with especially impressive chops when it comes to soloing, bassist Hail Mary Zadroga lays down the low end while making it look easy, and drummer Lightnin’ Ron Salvo is the heartbeat of this arresting quintet, never once overshadowing his bandmates or overplaying. 

Performance: Athens is a complete ball of energy with a traffic-stopping, pitch-perfect vocal. To be quite honest, it probably wouldn’t matter what JLH chooses to play so long as this petite chanteuse is on the mic. The fact that she adds keyboard to the equation only ups her cool factor. JLH’s chemistry is undeniable as they play off each other and joke on stage; it’s plain to see that they’ve spent a lot of time in the trenches together and on the road. Their standout tune would have to be the electrified version of their back-porch acoustic song, “White Gold,” which is perhaps the most memorable and hooky song of their set and features a bluesy slide riff that reaches far down into the Delta and into the depths of your soul. “Lucky” also really showcases Athens’ expansive vocal range, and “Weary Bones” harkens some good old-fashioned rock bands like The Black Crowes. 

Summary: JLH is one of those bands that you need to see, as their recording simply doesn’t do them justice or capture the raw energy of their live performance. While you may not necessarily go home singing every single one of their tunes (hey, it’s the blues…not top 40), you will be glad you caught this rock-solid rock band. – Alexx Calise