When in his native Norway, J. T. Lauritsen leads a band he calls The Buckshot Hunters. They're here, from sessions cut in Norway, but for Play By The Rules, Lauritsen also travelled to famed Ardent Studios in Memphis, recruiting a dazzling array of friends for additional sessions resulting in five of the disc's dozen tracks.
Despite a diverse cast and the obvious geographical disparity, though, there's a pleasing consistency to proceedings. Lauritsen cheerfully mixes genres, anyway, seamlessly blending blues, soul, and zydeco, every player's contribution, regardless of studio, is absolutely spot-on, and having it all mixed and mastered at Ardent ensures there are no audio distractions to interrupt the flow.
Lauritsen comes across as a blue-eyed-soul vocalist, with just enough gravel in his voice to give his delivery the requisite grit. He does have a hint of an accent but it's only apparent on occasion and never really distracting. Above all there's something in his voice and his phrasing that somehow conveys his sheer love of every song he sings - it's intangible but genuinely infectious.
In addition to his soulful vocals, Lauritsen pays mean harmonica, accordion, and B3, wielding each judiciously for maximum effect - lots of squeezebox add a rather atypical texture to much of the material while occasional flourishes of squalling harp help keep things firmly grounded in the blues.
Familiar names among the many participants include Anson Funderburgh, Victor Wainwright, Reba Russel, and Willie J. Campbell. Billy Gibson trades harp licks on a mean version of Walter Horton's "Need My Baby. Additional covers include a gospel-fueled take on Gillian Welch's "Valley Of Tears," and the rousing reading of William Bell's classic "Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday" that kicks things off. The closing rave-up, "The Blues Got Me," features some absolutely smoking guitar from Greg Gumpel and ends things fittingly with a 'blues choir.'
Lauritsen's compositions vary from the Cajun feel of "Next Time" to the moody and meditative title track and the hard-core boogie-blues of "Find My Little Girl."
As with his previous releases, J. T. Lauritsen's music, in the end, just feels good. And that is a good thing indeed.