Jim Wurster
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Jim Wurster

Hollywood, Florida, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014

Hollywood, Florida, United States
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Americana Alternative

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Considering South Florida-based Jim Wurster's musical pedigree in bands like Atomic Cowboys and Black Janet, his latest solo album Raw's "does-what-it-says-on-the-tin" aesthetic might come as a bit of a surprise. It's a determinedly stripped-down exercise in reproducing, as far as possible, the sound of Jim's live performances, with most of the tracks recorded in one or two takes and featuring just Jim, his voice, guitar, Porchboard bass and effects.

Several tracks additionally feature bass from Vinnie Fonatana, while there's one overdubbed vocal part (Daphna Rose) on a lugubrious cover of Cher's Bang Bang and some wonderfully raw, down-home live-in-the-studio backing on one track (Fred Neil's Dade County Jail) by Omine Eager, Mike Vullo and Chris DeAngelis. Just under half of the material is self-penned, and falls loosely within the "dark-Americana" stable; Jim's voice is redolent of an unholy cross between Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, Doug Hoekstra and Nick Cave, with unavoidable overtones of Johnny Cash, while his deliberately unpicked, basic guitar style (and proudly dead-sounding instrument - he's not changed his strings in over three years, he says!) lends itself well to creative electronic treatment (wilful distortion, flange, phase, delay and other effects). Jim's most persuasive on numbers like the Cohenesque She Was and the twelve-bar travelogue Ojus, but rather less interesting on Loping Vampire Blues.

His choice of covers is eclectic, with a distinctly routine Riders On The Storm rubbing shoulders with a strangely logical, and somewhat successful, pairing of You Are My Sunshine and Ain't No Sunshine, a device which, incredibly, you feel that Jim is about to get away with repeating - but with an altogether darker feel - on the 11th (bonus) track, but which is unaccountably and abruptly truncated before he can start on the second song… most curious that. Considering the disparate nature of the material over its 11 tracks, Jim manages a surprising degree of coherence and musical and artistic unity here.

David Kidman - FATEA Magazine, Great Britain-David Kidman


Jim Wurster can claim credit as one of South Florida's most original musicians, not simply because he possesses a singular sound but, more important, because he continually ventures into new terrain and does so without regard to commercial consequences. Indeed, ever since his tenure at the helm of the goth-like band Black Janet, Wurster has eschewed any need for fashion or frenzy in pursuit of his muse. Raw, Wurster’s latest, offers an apt title considering the set's stripped-down feel. However, don't be tricked into thinking this is some kind of exercise in sleepy acoustic balladry. It's infused with eerie effects and electronic drones seemingly at odds with the laid-back motif. A mix of Wurster originals and eclectic covers -- Neil Young's "Southern Pacific," Sonny and Cher's "Bang Bang," Fred Neil's "Dade County Jail," the Doors' "Riders on the Storm," and perhaps strangest of all, a medley that combines "Ain't No Sunshine" and "You Are my Sunshine" -- the songs take a decidedly dark turn in unexpected ways. Wurster's voice recalls a sinister mashup of Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, and Lou Reed during a midnight encounter hosted by Nick Cave, while the stark setups lend the proceedings an ominous air. Nevertheless, RAW is a fascinating disc, one that’s both formidable and foreboding. (www.jimwurster.com) - No Depression-Lee ZImmerman


I was confused at first play…I thought I had inadvertently stuck in a Roy Orbison disc…Besides Roy, I have only heard that ethereal intensity from Randy Travis. It’s like a singer channeling a voice from the pleoma, but not in a detached way, from some place deep inside and from far, far away at the same time – both quantum and cosmic.
- Baker's Blog


Jim Wurster’s music is embedded with character and a singular vocal and guitar style that serve as extensions of the man, calling to mind a New Wave Dylan.
- Jam Magazine


Black Janet is a real standout in the field of rock and pop music players in Florida. Headed by singer/songwriter Jim Wurster, the act takes deadly aim at a mature style of dark and bittersweet music. His voice is rich with a deep haunting resonance; the song lyrics are rife with themes of love and desire, longing and loss.
- Billboard Magazine


“Black Janet first established him as a prodigious artist with a flair for drama and intensity. His later work with the Atomic Cowboys found him newly concerned with country music, a style that clearly found him equally as adept. Wurster's new project, Hired Hand, might be his most striking work yet.” Lee Zimmerman, Miami Herald
- Miami New Times


It wasn't that long ago that South Florida stalwart Jim Wurster was trumpeting the latest in a series of superb solo albums, Straight To Me, an effort that provided a harrowing glimpse at Americana's dark side. Wurster was never a stranger to those darker environs; his early efforts with Black Janet first established him as a prodigious artist with a flair for drama and intensity. His later work with the Atomic Cowboys found him newly concerned with country music, a style that clearly found him equally as adept.
That said, Wurster's new project, Hired Hand, might be his most striking work yet. Recorded with his stepson Bud Berning's band SkyRider, its origins go back nearly a decade, derived from an incident that turned into a terrible tragedy. As Wurster tells it, Berning used his 2002 summer break from college to embark on a road trip that would take him from Oregon to Central America. During the Mexican segment of the journey he was involved in a horrible accident that resulted in him suffering multiple fractures, including shattered bones in his legs, forehead and cheeks.

"When his mother and I arrived at the hospital in Mexico City, he was in a drug induced state," Wurster relates. "Over the next several days, he was operated on a half a dozen times as they pieced him back together. The best doctors in Mexico worked on him and did a miraculous job. He would endure several more operations, before being flown by air ambulance to Miami Jackson. He was there for one week, and endured a few more surgeries. He then came home, and was bedridden for the better part of the next year, as his bodily slowly healed. During that time, we acquired a digital recording program and he went to work learning how to record and mix music. At the end of his recovery, we recorded an old Black Janet song, "Masters of Deception."

That was to be the start of a collaboration that wouldn't be fully realized for another six years. After Berning returned to college in Orlando, he formed a group he dubbed SkyRider and inked a deal with a local label, Endemik Records. Consisting mainly of atmospheric instrumentals, the resulting album, entitled 47:34, took its cue from Berning's tragic mishap, a dark series of soundscapes that reflected those tumultuous days and weeks as he struggled through his recovery. The sole exception was Berning and Wurster's recording of "Masters of Deception," which Endemik opted to release as a vinyl single.

The song garnered a decent buzz in Europe and respectable airplay on college radio in the States. SkyRider to the road as a backing band for a hip-hop act named Sole, but was then offered the opportunity to record an album for the Connecticut-based Fake Four label after its owner heard the "Masters of Deception" single and suggested they follow up with a set of similar material.

According to the Fake Four Facebook page, Wurster remained the impetus for Berning - who's now become synonymous with SkyRider - to find new life through his music. "Jim Wurster bailed SkyRider out of jail, amongst other things," its narrative begins. "Some even say Jim Wurster himself pulled SkyRider from the mangled wreckage of that near-fatal accident in Mexico which left SkyRider in a ten day coma, but that's the stuff legends are made of.?One thing is for certain, when Bud Berning made his solo debut as SkyRider, deep in the swamps of Florida, he called upon Jim Wurster to bring out that old guitar he swore he'd never play again. He asked Jim to re-record his Reagan Era critique piece "Masters of Deception", a song that spoke so powerfully to Berning - as it was just as befitting in of the times of the Bush Era - that he featured it as the only fully worded song on the instrumental album, 47:34, a haunting glimpse into the shattered mind of one trapped by the succubus arms of a coma."

It's an apt description for an album that's as tortured and tumultuous as the scenario that preceded it. With a full band in tow - Wurster on vocals and guitar, Berning on bass, guitar, keyboard, and percussion, William Ryan Fritch playing a multitude of other instruments and John Wagner on drums - the resulting effort, Hired Hand, combines dense psychedelic undertones with Wurster's ominous invocations. Songs such as "Cold Wind," "Dark Skies" and "Suicide Soliloquy" maximize the foreboding manifest in those titles with a dire despair reminiscent of Nick Cave, Johnny Cash or Leonard Cohen at his most morose. And yet, its also an inspiring record, one that finds redemption in its beautiful coda, "There's a Reward" as well as its otherwise upbeat intro, "Queen of My Heart."

An ideal record for today's uncertain times, Hired Hand reminds us that revelation and inspiration can be found in even the worst of circumstance.
- News Times


Suppose Buddy Holly had survived that plane crash and now, in middle age, was still singing his hiccupy, syncopated rock songs in a much lower voice with a strong taste for steel-guitar accompaniment.

That's what the music on Jim Wurster's "Goodbye Paradise" (Black Janet Music) is like, and I can't think of anyone else who has quite the same sound today. Both in melody ands lyrics, his tunes are simple and uncomplicated. As a result they are accessible. Yet, they have the same haunting quality as Holly's work did. There's something about the terseness that indicates he's hiding as much as he is revealing.

Wurster's combo provides sterling rhythm-guitar work to keep these songs bouncing. - Steven Rosen
- Steven Rosen


Jim Wurster has always reminded me of a country Bob Dylan with his woolly, reedy voice and poetic lyrics. He's assembled a crack band and this disc is a sweet slice of Western charm. Bob Wlos MVP here, spicing up the proceedings with springy pedal steel guitar and feathery mandolin breaks. The men cover a range of traditional styles, from the Blue Ridge bluegrass of "Appalachian Dream," with it's saucy fiddle work by Robin Roslund, to the up tempo rock 'n' roll of "Lisa's Lucky Star." There's a '60s rock-cum-Angelo Badalamenti drippiness to "In Love With A Lie," which features the lyric "and now it's comin' back to haunt her as she puts you through hell / but you knew she was no angel / she had the devil in her eyes." Frank Binger rocks steady on drums and Gary Proses fills in on four and six strings with passion. The mix is a mite unsteady, but that's a small kvetch for such a lovingly crafted album of country goodness. - Bing Futch
- Bing Futch


The four smiling middle-aged white guys looking out from the cover of the new Jim Wurster and the Atomic Cowboys CD don't look particularly dangerous. But anyone who remembers Wurster from his days leading the longtime South Florida alternative group, Black Janet, or the self-titled effort that proceeded the new Dangerous Men, knows that the songwriter's deep-country baritone can be gloomy enough to rouse even Vincent Price from his big sleep. And when Wurster admits that he "shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die" on a faithful cover of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison," you're tempted to believe him.

Wurster and the Cowboys - Drummer Frank Binger, bassist Gary Proses and guitarist / mandolinist / pedal steel wiz Bob Wlos - a bit more playful and relaxed than they were on their debut CD. Dangerous Men has none of the leftover Black Janet elements of it's predecessor, and instead presents the group as a fully developed roots-rock outfit.

Wlos, especially is his usual mesmerizing self, coaxing leads from his pedal steel and mandolin as smoothly as a hand passing through water. In addition to a well-chosen and well-executed update of John Prine's "Paradise," Dangerous Men showcases Wurster's ongoing growth as a songwriter, particularly the down-home and up-tempo "Appalachian Dream" and the Western-swingin' "Love Ya So." - Jake Cline
- Jake Cline


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Jim Wurster is traveling lighter these days. The songwriter packs up his guitar, his stomp box, and his vintage pedals, and presents his arsenal of songs exactly the way they sound in his head. Actually, I first tried this out so that I could do some solo touring in Nashville and out on the West Coast. Then people started coming up to me intrigued by what I was playing. It made me realize that I was able to express the lyrical content of my work, through these different kinds of sounds, as well as through my voice.

As Jim began recording these stripped down but amped up songs, along with some of his favorite covers, he noticed that the music was taking a decided bent. These were stories yanked from American headlines: deadly love affairs, battered wives, mistreated children, and vigilante justice. The new sounds suited the themes; the distortion predicted the train wreck of life in Southern Pacific, and the deadly implosion of a love affair in Big Surprise. The name of the album became clear, Wurster decided to call the record, RAW. In his album notes, Jim discussed the recording process, All my parts were recorded live and simultaneouslyI wanted to reproduce my acoustic show as closely as possible.

RAW will be officially released on January 17, 2014. It features 5 originals and five covers that demonstrate the depth and variety of Jims influences. A Miami native, Wurster reveals the darker side of his city in songs like Ojus and Dade County Jail. The shadowy females that often populate Jims music, are there as well, in Loping Vampire Blues and Bang Bang.

Though Wursters sound has changed through the years, it has always kept him in the top tier of accomplished Florida songwriters. His early works with Black Janet earned the band a Jammy Award, a Florida Rock Award, cover stories in the Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel, and extensive play at college radio. Jims second band, The Atomic Cowboys, delivered stripped down American roots music with songs that spoke volumes on the state of politics, the state of relationships, and the state of mind of the inscrutable Wurster.

From 1990 through 2011, Jim released 12 albums, with the assistance of top Florida talent and producers including Jack Shawde, Bob Wlos (L7 studios), and Roger DiLorenzo, Inevitably, with a catalog of over 100 songs, Jims music came to the attention of an indie record label, Fake Four Music, which had kick-started the careers of several alternative folk and hip-hop bands. Fake Four released, Hired Hand, a collaboration between Jim and label mates, The Skyrider Band, featuring Wursters stepson Bud. Reviews described the sound ofHired Hand as visceral, like the backdrop for a modern western film.

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Career Highlights: 

Released 13 Independent albums with a discography of over 100 songs. 

"Best Independent Release - Love Thirsty-Jammy Awards. 

Best New Band - Black Janet, Florida Rock Awards.

Black Janet featured on the cover of the Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald. 

Hired Hand released by Indie Label Fake Four Music.

Hired Hand makes the years Top Releases at Amoeba Music stores. 

Channel 4, CBS News debuts video Lissette dedicated to meteorologist, Lissette Gonzalez.

Wurster hosts The Dolphin Project Fundraiser featuring Ric OBarry, from the Academy Award Winning Documentary, The Cove.

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Band Members