CD Review: Guy Tortora ~ Bluesman In A Boneyard



Guy Tortora
Bluesman In A Boneyard
Turtledove Records


There can be no argument that Guy Tortora is a musician, songwriter and singer of the highest calibre so my expectations were high when through the letterbox dropped Bluesman In A Boneyard and I was not disappointed the music drove the outstanding story-bound lyrics creating a mosaic of poetry with a beat that stirred and connected. There is nothing jaded, overworked every word and note has been honed and shaped and then included within the tapestry of sound for a reason. This is stripped back blues full of every emotion with a true authenticity that fits the twenty-first century.

The two covers have been carefully considered and fit the tonal and lyrical shape of Bluesman In A Boneyard, The first is a Blind Willie Johnson number What Is A Soul Of A Man with a searing trumpet that gives the music a spiritual edge with Guy’s vocals picking up the beat that just gets you tapping those feet to the beat.; followed by Going To Brownsville. This classic Sleepy John Estes number is re-worked with the magic of Guy and the slide guitar and harmonica giving a tonal depth that the original does not have thanks to Ben Tyzack.

The other seven tracks are self-penned nuggets that have been created by picking over fruitful bones in the graveyard of the blues lexicon, Boneyard opens with Pete Hedley on drums, no rock crescendo but a steady beat to allow Guy’s vocals to curl around as we reach the Church of Little Zion; and the tale of a Reverend not happy to have a bluesman in his boneyard and strangers visiting. The description builds a picture that is full of heat, devil, whiskey and music down to detail of six-strings laid on the gravestone. This is a blues narrative of memories and dreams that has the power in the words and beat and then the embellishment from Janos as his fingers skip along the keys. Ballad of The Boll Weavill is a story of cotton and the Boll Weavill spreading out over the land. It is a story of greed and destruction by an evil force that can be found in a variety guises a clever morality tale. The addition of Gemma’s violin, as Guy explores work and stress in Live Fast; as the tale unfolds there is no frantic music it is the words that shape the frenzy and seeming inevitability of modern lifestyle. The album finishes with an upbeat number Les Bon Temps with Phil Underwood playing accordion giving this a New Orleans Cajun infused party feel that leaves you with only one choice it is the right time to go back to the beginning and listen again so the meanings and undercurrents are not missed.

Bluesman In A Boneyard proves that there is no need for complex licks, raised volume when they are delivered with this class it is the words simply encased and protected by clever instrumentation every time with Guy Tortora’ quality blues out of California via London and a deep understanding of the scars that created blues in the Southern States.

Bluesdoodles gives this CD TEN doodle paws out of TEN ….pawprint half inch

1. Damage Was Done
2. What Is The Soul Of A Man (W. Johnson)
3. Boneyard
4. Going To Brownsville (Estes)
5. Ballad of Boll Weavil
6. Live Fast
7. One Way Ticket
8. From The Heart
9. Les Bon Temps

Guy Tortora: Guitar, Vocals, Mandolin, Foot Stomp
Janos Bajtala: Piano, Hammond Organ
Costa Tancredi: Bass
Pete Hedley: Drums

Additional Musicians
Ben Tyzack: Slide Guitar/Harmonica (Going To Brownsville)
Giles Hedley: Harmonica (Damage Was Done)
Gemma Sharples: Violin (Live Fast)
Phil Underwood: Accordion (Les Bons Temps)
Tim Burns: Percussion
Graham Pike: Trumpet (Soul Of A Man)
Frankie & Bex: Backing Vocals

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  1. As a fellow writer on the blues, anyone who’s seen or heard the wonderful Guy Tortura will love this latest album by him and his superb band. His voice is outstanding, his guitar playing pure magic and with his regular three piece band who back him on this release your in blues heaven. Add a track by performing friend and fellow bluesman Ben Tyzack ( without doubt one of the finest slide players anywhere in Europe) of course a member of The Spikedrivers, ‘Bluesman In The Boneyard’ surely one of the very best releases of 2016. Albums this great make reviewing and writing on music a pure and absolute pleasure.

  2. Since reviewing this album I’ve had the absolute pleasure of hearing a new Cd featuring both Guy Tortora and Ben Tyzack, recorded for Pheonix FM radio’ it has these two amazing guitarists playing together at The Burnham Sessions. It is hoped to get a full release but is currently only available at gigs they are playing. With just the two of them, this is blues at its very acoustic finest, from oipen picking to slide over the six recorded songs you’ll always want more . J .J.Cale’s ‘Call Me The Breeze’ is just about the best everr version outside the man himself, plus the five minute take on Bob Dylan’s ‘Buckets Of Rain’ is sublime. Add a couple of Ben’s own songs, both among his best, Jimmie Vaughan’s ‘Six Strings Down’ never heard this played acoustically before and James Odens ‘Going Down Slow’, make this one of those recordings that will be a lasting delight two of the finest blues musicians around, playing and singing some mighty fine songs. Certainly worth seeking out.

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