John Lisi

Slammin' funky blues out of New Orleans

“I don’t have to do this. I get to do this.” 

When you share a birthday with Jimmy Page and spend your Junior high and high school years in the library with headphones on, ducking jocks and bullies and absorbing Hendrix and Muddy Waters, the guitar almost naturally becomes an extension of your being. John Lisi's musical journey began in North Jersey, took an unwanted detour through Tampa, and ended up in the most musical city in the United States: New Orleans.

“Moving to New Orleans in the late '90s was the turning point," he comments. "That was when I learned to play with soul and not think about what I learned everywhere else." That musical epiphany uncorked a wellspring of talent and birthed a free-flowing sound that led to a reputation as one of the Crescent City's premier guitarists. Before long he was sharing stages with the likes of Dr. John, Cyril Neville, Bryan Lee, Galactic, and Tab Benoit and embarked on a solo career now in its 22nd year.

And then there's that little old thang called Delta Funk. Lisi coined the term, distilled the music and formed the band (John Lisi and Delta Funk). Beginning with his 1997 debut, Blues For Chloe, and winding through his latest, 2015's Shut The Front Door!, Lisi has released seven albums either as a solo artist or under the Delta Funk moniker; no matter the brand name, they all have muddy, stanky, swampy blues roots and an undeniable booty-shakin' groove. His songs continually span the wide world of funk while still giving everyone from blues-heads to guitar nerds something to sink their teeth into.

 

Be it Dobro, mandolin, resonator, Stratocaster or a plain old acoustic guitar, Lisi has it locked down. Shut the Front Door! is the most fully realized rendering of what‘s become his signature sound, complete with all the essentials—sassy female backing vocals, a horn section that kicks brass, an in-the-pocket rhythm section and, of course, stellar guitar riffs all night long.

But let's roll it back for a minute... Lisi began to be recognized as an important musician in the New Orleans world with his 2002 release Blues For Chloe. That album features a loaded backing band with Big Jay McNeely, Henry Gray, Larry Garner, and J. Monque’D. He logged lots of time with NOLA icon Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, and co-wrote “Rising Sun” with him in 2006 (he's also a featured player on Big Chief Monk’s 2011 album Won’t Bow Down). Backed by Cody Dickenson and Jimbo Mathus (North Mississippi All-Stars and Squirrel Nut Zippers, respectively), his 2007 album Dead Cat Bounce put him in the national and international spotlight, garnering reviews and acclaim from across the globe. The blues world officially took notice in 2009, when he was presented with with the Slim Harpo Blues Pioneer Award (along with no less than Dr. John and Alvin Batiste). Currently, Lisi not only calls the shots for Delta Funk, for whom he's planning two new albums in the next 12 months, he's also the axeman for award-winning harmonica legend Jason Ricci in his band, The Bad Kind

 

Photographer: Hope Byrd

Musician: John "Jacky" Lisi

Backstage, House of Blues, 2015