The Soul of John Black isn't exactly a household name, and understandably so -- the brand-new album, The Good Girl Blues, is only the group's sophomore release. But behind the moniker, you'll find a veteran multi-instrumentalist who has had his hands in some very big music.
John "JB" Bigham worked as a writer and percussionist in the Miles Davis group, and for eight years played in longtime genre-benders Fishbone. As a session player, he's worked with artists including Bruce Hornsby, Dre and Eminem -- not a bad resume for a musician. The Soul of John Black is essentially a vehicle for Bigham's songwriting and blues guitar; he reportedly recorded the album at home, with help from members of Nikka Costa's touring band.
Yet with all the pyrotechnics and studio wankery he's undoubtedly capable of, The Good Girl Blues tends toward minimalism, showcasing the dark, murky world conjured by the songs themselves: spare funk and hip-hop grooves, acoustic and electric blues guitar, the odd DJ cuts and backup soul singers here and there. Then there's Bigham's voice: a rich but believable instrument, spinning tales of loneliness ("The Hole"), gettin' it ("I Got Work," "Good Girl") and bizarre episodes ("Swamp Thang").
Bigham is at Mr. Small's Theatre on Tue., July 3, opening for Aussie jam-funksters The Cat Empire; it's the band's first major U.S. tour, after making inroads stateside at last year's Bonnaroo festival.
The Soul of John Black, opening for The Cat Empire. 8 p.m. Tue., July 3 (doors at 7 p.m.). Mr. Small's Theatre, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $16. All ages. 412-821-4447 or www.mrsmalls.com