There's always hope. That still, small voice that can guide us through the wilderness if we let it. Dig Deep, the new album from Jersey legend and one-time lead singer of Clarence Clemons' Red Back Rockers, J.T. Bowen, embodies that hope.
With the help of his good friend and producer Arlan Feiles, a celebrated Asbury Park-based singer-songwriter whose rootsy blend of folk 'n' soul has delighted audiences around the world, J.T. Bowen has made a delicious new album. On Dig Deep, he mines eight of Arlan's most soul-searching songs.
The dynamite ignites with "Viola," a modern-day civil rights anthem that could break the chains of oppression with its dignified delivery and church-like clamor. The title track looks beyond Black Lives Matter and other protests to a day when all brothers and sisters of creation will live in peace, harmony, and sustainability, if they can "dig deep with some dignity." The bouncy joy of the Allan Toussaint/Lee Dorsey-like "Doin' The Work" makes for a danceable spiritual about commitment to both love and fun. And the LP's standout track, the John Hiatt-like "Angels Among Us," is a soul bullet that will penetrate the hardest heart and turn it into mush as it's staccato stagger explores the divine turning points of life in which love shows the way through darkness and light. The island spiced fun of "Love You Like The First Time" will rock both the dance floor and the bedroom, while the gospel march of "Walk With Jesus" takes a more spiritual path. The road with Bowen then takes another civil rights turn with the freedom song "50 Miles." J.T. sings, "Tell Martin we're still marching for him," while the memories from Selma to Montgomery stand like a monument to a dream that must be realized by our children since we have failed to do so. Dig Deep closes with "Don't Back Down," a driving Springsteen-esque testament about the need to rise up and keep on keepin' on with the strength of grace.
One of the most popular soul and R&B singers to call Springwood Avenue his musical home is the great J.T. Bowen, who led such hot bands as Soul Flame and the Chosen Few. Among his mates in the Chosen Few was future Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, Clarence Clemons, before he was the saxophonist of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. While Bruce and other future E Streeters were ripping it up a few blocks away at The Upstage, J.T., Clarence, and the Chosen Few were making crowds shout and sweat at The Turf Club, The Orchid Lounge, and all along bustling Springwood Avenue.
While Clarence subsequently found fame on E Street, J.T. continued to rock throughout the Jersey Shore with the Chosen Few until 1976, then went on to front a band called Surrender through 1981. Right around that time while working as a door man at Clarence's new club, Big Man's West in Red Bank, J.T. was tapped to front Clarence's backing band, the Red Bank Rockers, touring extensively with them while simultaneously recording with Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul and Gary "U.S." Bonds and performing with Asbury Jukes saxophonist Eddie Manion and E Street Band drummer Ernest "Boom" Carter in the Shore Patrol. Perhaps the highlight of J.T.'s storied career has been sharing the stage with Bruce, singing Clarence's hit "Woman's Got The Power" alongside him in 1985 at Giants Stadium and twice in 2011 in Asbury Park.