Jamie McLean is no stranger to those who have their ears to the ground and their eyes on the skies of American music. As a songwriter, singer, and guitarist, he has won plaudits from connoisseurs of uplifting, exhilarating performance sharpened by first-rate musicianship. He has been called to play sessions for artists as diverse as Norah Jones and Chuck D, shared the stage with Blues Traveler, Elvis Costello, and Dave Matthews, toured the world as a member of the celebrated Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and rocked the worlds of fans in small clubs, in Madison Square Garden, and before crowds that sprawled toward the horizons of Bonnaroo and Japan's Fuji Rock. You may be among those who already recognize McLean as an emerging player in that place where Southern and streetwise rock, roadhouse blues, downtown R&B and swampy soul music find communion. But even if that's true, and certainly if you're new to the unique experience offered by McLean, then Completely will catch you by surprise. It is, first of all, a milestone, marking the first release that bears the Jamie McLean Band as it's name. The distinction is subtle but real, for the sound of Completely is a fusion of his artistry with the power that comes from conceiving, nurturing, and delivering great songs as a unified ensemble. On these 11 tracks, McLean, bassist Derek Layes, keyboardist Jon Solo and drummer Brian Griffin cover all the bases, musically and thematically. The agony of a love grown distant intensifies through the minor-to-major chords on "Natalie." But on "Cupid's Greatest Thief" this pain turns philosophical and even upbeat over a steamy Memphis R&B beat. We catch the whiff of freedom on a breezy freeway cruise on "Checkmate," feel the promise of redemption in the mists of "Summer Rain" and dig deep into core of rock & roll with the guitar-driven, drum-pummeled, fist-pumping "Peace and Glory." "In the very early stages of my solo career, it was very much about me bringing a finished product to the band," McLean explains. "Now, while I still write most of our songs, we're writing together and collaborating, and some of the guys are bringing their music to the table too. We're a band in every sense of the word - a driving rock band." But as with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, one of the Jamie McLean Band's most significant influences, this group centers on the front man's talent and charisma. Their story is largely about his emergence through a completely unpredictable opportunity to achieve a blend of onstage energy, roots-rich soul in his voice and bluesy grit in his playing, and mastery of concise, hard-hitting composition. Music has always been a constant in McLean's life. Beginning as a high school student in Connecticut and continuing as an English major at Boston College, he led bands and drew from a variety of inspirations as he defined his style. The band dynamics of the Stones and the Allman Brothers, the searing impact of Stevie Ray Vaughan and the sophistication of George Benson on guitar, the varied examples of Bob Dylan, the Black Crowes and Paul Simon as writers, were among the landmarks that helped McLean chart his course. Perhaps the one strain of American music that didn't make it into this picture was the brass-band phenomenon of New Orleans - which is why no one was more surprised than McLean when that genre became his path toward prominence. He had left Boston and moved to Colorado, where he put a band together with his brother Carter on drums. They worked their way up to opening for major artists, one of which was the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The legendary Crescent City ensemble hit it off with McLean, invited him to sit in on guitar, took him on a brief leg of their Colorado tour ... "And then," McLean remembers, "at the end of the last show, Roger Lewis from the band came up to me and said, 'The next show is in San Diego. Do you have to go home and get your toothbrush or anything like that?' That was my invitation to join the band." Though the group had never worked with a guitarist, McLean clicked with them instantly. After moving to New Orleans, he devoted the next six years to them. It was an invaluable experience but it also led eventually to McLean's decision to apply what he'd learned to finally stepping out on his own. "At home on my porch or in a hotel room, I started writing things that were definitely not Dirty Dozen material," he says. "I was doing it for fun, not thinking too much about it. But it got to the point where I had a lot of material. My brother Carter had moved to New York, so whenever I had some time off I'd fly out there and we'd jam. Then I booked a gig at CBGB's and things progressed from there. That was really the beginning of the Jamie McLean Band." While still performing with the Dirty Dozen, McLean began exploring the possibilities of a solo career. He recorded his first album, This Time Around, in 2005 - a flat-out rocker, cut in three exhilarating days while also laying the foundation of his band's catalog of recordings. American Heartache followed in 2008, more ambitious, even adventurous, and enhanced by guest appearances from Luther Dickenson of the North Mississippi All-Stars and the Dirty Dozen horns. "Completely is the next step," McLean explains. "Everything gets turned up a couple of notches. We're writing better, all of us. The songs have stronger hooks. The background vocals are solid; everybody is singing. And it captures where we are right now. People have always come up at shows and talked to me about my singing or guitar playing; they're still doing that but they're also saying, 'You've got some great songs.' More than ever, it's about writing a great tune. This album really captures who we are and where we're going - and that will always begin and end with playing live. I'm in it to play for people, and if Completely helps me do this, that's all I can ask."