It took Jukin' Bone almost 50 years to make the album the band always wanted to make.
Released in March, "Unfinished Business" is the first release in 44 years from the central New York band, which features vocalist Joe Whiting, of Skaneateles, lead guitarist Mark Doyle, of Auburn, guitarist George Egosarian, bassist John DeMaso and new drummer Josh Dekaney.
The band formed as Free Will in 1968 with drummer Tom Glaister. Though it signed with RCA Records in 1971 and toured with The Allman Brothers, The Kinks and more of rock 'n' roll's finest, the band never reached its potential on wax, Doyle said Wednesday. Its two LPs as Jukin' Bone, 1972's "Whiskey Woman" and "Way Down East," were the sound of a young band on a big label, he said.
"We were really young and green when we signed with RCA," he said. "We had no say-so and no power."
Jukin' Bone broke up in 1973, with Doyle and Whiting going on to record and perform together as The Doyle Whiting Band and as solo artists. It wasn't until 1993 that the band resolved its differences and reunited for a performance at the Syracuse Area Music Awards. The reunions continued every few years until 2005.
Then, last March, the band was inducted into the Syracuse Area Music Awards Hall of Fame. Afterward, Whiting called Doyle, DeMaso and Egosarian to ask them: "What if we could make the album we always wanted to make?" Doyle's first question was how they would finance it. He got his answer "literally the next day," he said, when Italian label Akarma Records offered him a deal to release Free Will's 1969 album "Cold Cold Morning" on vinyl. The first pressing would sell out, and the deal would pay for the recording of "Unfinished Business."
"That was beautiful," Doyle said. "It was like our past paying for our future."
There's a term Joe Whiting has been thinking about a lot lately: "senior artist."
Nine of the album's 10 songs were written in secret and recorded at More Sound and Near Miss studios in Syracuse; the 10th song is Jukin' Bone's interpretation of the classic "Today I Sing the Blues." For Whiting and Doyle, the latter said, knowing that they would present their material to Egosarian changed the dynamic of their creative process. It was the guitarist who encouraged the rest of Jukin' Bone to write its own songs in its formative days, Doyle said, and his writing "has a really unique slant on things."
"He's the master of the unobvious phrase," Doyle said.
The band worked out its first songs in 44 years over the internet, Doyle said, and in harmonious fashion. But what made "Unfinished Business" the definitive Jukin' Bone album is everything the members did in those intervening years, he continued. All their musical and life experience has led them to play more skillfully and soulfully, Doyle said.
The band will perform two sold-out shows at Auburn Public Theater this weekend, and another at the Great New York State Fair Aug. 30. As of Wednesday the band had rehearsed twice, Doyle said, and was sounding "great." But he can't say for sure whether it'll perform again after the fair. Though promoters have made offers, DeMaso living in Florida and Egosarian in Cape Cod makes the logistics difficult. And Doyle added that Jukin' Bone was content to release its new album and call it a day. After all, the band no longer has "Unfinished Business."
"We knew this was our chance to make a stand and make good on the lost opportunity we always viewed those first two albums as," he said. "We were on our game for the whole thing."