Joel Zoss Shares Them Old Florida Blues | New Times Broward-Palm Beach


Veteran Singer/Songwriter Joel Zoss Shares Them Old Florida Blues

Joel Zoss is decidedly old school. For one thing, he’s spending his senior years in West Palm Beach, the place where many people of a certain age choose to reside after traipsing through middle age. For another, he’s made his living writing, playing and singing the blues, a revered musical genre if ever there was one.

The fame he gained is a holdover from 40 years prior, when he contributed a pair of songs to the first two seminal albums by Bonnie Raitt, those being “Too Long at the Fair” (recorded for her second LP, Give It Up) and “I Gave My Love a Candle” (tapped for her follow-up, Takin’ My Time). Other successes came early on as well, including onstage associations with James Taylor, B.B. King, Etta James, John Hartford, Taj Mahal and Little Feat. His eponymous solo debut followed in 1974, but it took another 34 years before he released its follow-up, the succinctly named Lila, in 2008. 

It’s not that he was idle. During the ‘80s and ‘90s he authored or co-authored more than two dozen books, most centering on the subject of baseball. The New York Times even named one of them, Diamonds in the Rough — written with historian John S. Bowman in 1989 — one of the best books on the sport ever published. Zoss’ literary citations also include an International PEN short story win and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow of Creative Writing award for a novel he wrote in 1980 which was aptly titled Chronicle.

Zoss is celebrating the release of his third album in 43 years, Florida Blues, an homage to his adopted state. As the title implies, it’s a collection of straightforward, unabashed blues consisting of eight original songs and two classic covers, “Key to the Highway” and “Goodnight Irene.” The remainder of the effort boasts a vibe that’s equally authentic, from the tuneful parable “Two Fish” to the brash bravado of “Vodka and Red Bull," a paean to the joys of getting blasted.

“I got a good buzz on,” he proclaims. “I can make love all night.”

Not bad for a a guy who’s still doing the nasty at age 71.

Then again, life in South Florida does tend to have a liberating effect. Zoss was first introduced to this area in 2007 while on tour with B.B. King. After spending many a snowy winter in Conway, Massachusetts where he maintains his primary home, it didn’t take an extraordinary amount of convincing to prompt him to move south. He’s slowly been getting acquainted with the local club circuit, clearly demonstrating that even when someone is a graduate of old-school circumstance, it’s still never too late to start anew.
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Lee Zimmerman