Toronto man, David Rotundo, has built quite a following across the Atlantic and to a growing number of fans on this side – now, with his fourth studio album So Much Trouble on release, we all have a chance to catch up.
Having seen James Cotton play, he knew the harmonica was for him and he traveled around blues hot spots like Chicago, Memphis and New Orleans before returning to Toronto, starting his own band in 2001. This is his fifth album, all originals, but the first for a new label started by another harmonica man, Lee Oskar (of War fame), who also produces.
The opener, She’s Dynamite, gives a clue where we’re going, as the harp opens the score and the guitar lays down a solid r’n’b riff before the whole band join in and, over a tongue in cheek lyrical humour we are regaled by a great key solo and, of course, a harp solo too; David plays it with texture and a lyricism of its own and doesn’t get tempted to overplay.
I Must Be Crazy has another familiar but new structure that summons up images of Otis Rush…the guitar and B3 are the stars for me, as the phrasing behind the strong vocals is worth listening for; plus a B3 solo that sounds like the organ player at my local church had a bit too much to drink! The guitar solo is also quite magnificent in the sparse notes and bends.
Funky Side Of Town is, guess what? It’s funky but subtle with it, the funk coming from the careful wah’d chording; the use of cello and backing vocals strengthens it all and the harp solo fits perfectly. Listen too for the bass line which is exceedingly clever.
Hard Times Coming reflects on the troubles afflicting the world over a blues slide guitar that just glistens. This deep blues with a hint of country is simply delectable and the upright bass is so right…the slide/harp duet is great, although I’d have preferred them to follow it up with a solo each…but ‘m a picky guitar freak!
The title track, So Much Trouble, holds a very valid environmental message over mid-paced bluesy layers of two lovely guitars, then another raging B3 solo, a section of sustained guitar with the harp singing over.
Too Blue is genius bass over sharp chords and develops into a slow jazz/blues about drinking away one’s troubles and the vocals feature Annie Jantzer adding depth. A neat harp solo presages a brilliant guitar solo as that bass keeps grabbing attention…must be a candidate for a brilliant bass solo when done live.
Drinking Overtime is, disappointingly, not as I first read, a song about a night time malted beverage! (do they still make Ovaltine?) is an R’n’B high energy shuffle that takes a classic phrasing and ramps it up with sax bursts and more beautiful, almost angry, B3…another crafted harp solo pulls it all together.
That Thing Called Love is a slow blues showing David isn’t all drinking! A love song with acres of atmosphere as the harp and B3 combine in a great middle section.
Trying To Find It ups the tempo with a must tracked vocal call over a sort of Staxy idea. Yet another neat harp solo before a brilliant (way too short) burst of pure rock in the slide solo. Foolish Love is a piano led ballad with some Hammond washes, a sax piece and is well done but a little drawn for me – not a skipper, but not a seeker.
Long Road on the other hand, packs all sorts into it and is an Eastern country blues…if such a thing exists. Acoustic guitars and harmony vocals are joined by cello, tabla, congas and drums with some nice dobro work too; enthralling. Final track is a traditional song from the 20s, given a blues harp and acoustic ‘back porch, but laid back feel. Trouble In Mind wraps it up with David, his guitar and harp celebrating the blues.
All in all, this is a very strong bluesy album with much to enjoy and David, a class harp artist, backed by some superb musicians.
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws a Wonderful and varied album delivering blues with skill.
I Must Be Crazy
Funky Side Of Town
Hard Times Coming
So Much Trouble
That Thing Called Love
Trying To Find It
Trouble In Mind
All songs by David Rotundo
David Rotundo: vocals, harmonica, guitar
Mike Burgess, Skylar Mehal, Desmond Brown: guitar
Ron Weinstein: organ, piano
Ed Weber: piano
Andrew Cloutier: drums
Dean Schmidt: bass
Darian Asplund: saxophone
Philip Petersom: cello
Joseph Ravi Albright: Tabla
Annie Jantzer: backing vocals
Denali Williams: percussion
Thor Dietrchson, Ernesto Pediangco: congas
Produced by Lee Oscar
(iTunes took me back to the 60s and one of Ritchie Blackmore’s many sessions: this time the ‘I wanna be Elvis’ vocals of Davy Kaye with A Fool Such As I…and a remarkable and slightly incongruous solo from a young