Thursday, March 10, 2011

Time Slips On By reviewed by Mark Thopaond

Time Slips on By
Rich DelGrosso & Jonn Del Toro Richardson
14 tracks/63:35

Last year I finally made it to the Blues Music Awards show in Memphis, sponsored by the Blues Foundation. At one point during the evening, I was talking with the great guitarist, Billy Flynn, who had just done some Blues in the Schools programs for our blues society. Billy grabbed someone walking by and immediately introduced me to Jonn Del Toro Richardson. Jonn is the award-winning guitarist who has gained fame for his work as a member of Diunna Greenleaf's Blue Mercy Band.

Flynn spoke highly Del Toro's abilities and made it clear that he had a tremendous amount of respect for Jonn's work. During the discussion, Del Toro mentioned a new project that he was working on with the great blues mandolin player, Rich DelGrosso. I couldn't wait to hear what these two Houston – based musicians would come up with – but I knew it would be special.

And now the wait is over. These two musical forces use an all-original program – eight by DelGrosso – as a springboard for their stunning instrumental work. Vocally, the two offer a stark contrast with DelGrosso possessing a deep, brawny voice while Del Toro has a lighter, more expressive tone. Their rhythm section is composed of Carl Owens on drums, Ed Starkey on bass and Nick Connolly on keyboards.

DelGrosso romps through “Mandolin Man” on his amplified National resonator mandolin, turning the spotlight on three of his influences – Charlie McCoy, Yank Rachell and Johnny Young – and giving listeners a brief taste of their individual styles on the mandolin. Another great Houston musician, Sonny Boy Terry, provides an additional spark with his down-home harp licks. On the opening cut, “Baby Do Wrong”, DelGrosso uses a vintage Gibson mandola to get a bright, metallic sound that pairs perfectly with Del Toro's rich guitar tone. “Shotgun Blues” gets a boost from the presence of the Texas Horns – Mark Kazanoff on tenor sax, John Mills on baritone sax and Al Gomez on trumpet. Del Toro recreates the distinctive sound of Albert Collins and Connolly's B-3 organ work fills in space underneath the horns.

DelGrosso takes an unflinching look the plight of working musicians on “A Gig is a Gig” with Connolly's piano driving the rockin' arrangement and the leader picking out a tasty solo on the mandolin before Del Toro finishes off the cut with ringing guitar passages. Terry's amplified harp is prominently featured on “She's Sweet”, with another booming vocal from DelGrosso. The instrumental “Good Rockin' Johnny” showcases DelGrosso playing in the style of Johnny Young. “Hard To Live With” is the longest cut on the disc and finds DelGrosso doing a humorous self-examination as the leaders dazzle you with back-to-back solos.

Del Toro possesses plenty of amazing technical skill on guitar but what really stands out on this recording is the exquisite tone he achieves no matter what guitar he is playing. On the title song, his yearning vocal is punctuated by blasts from the Texas Horns, while his biting guitar statement on his '59 Strat contrasts with DelGrosso's intricate picking. “Summertime is Here” takes you deep into the Tex-Mex sound with Joel Guzman on accordion. Connolly's B-3 brings some funk to “The Real Deal” and Del Toro responds with a more forceful singing approach plus another spot-on solo.”Katalin” is taken at a slower pace with Guzman's accordion helping set the deep groove. Del Toro's solo is an unhurried masterpiece that proves that tone wins out over speed and volume. The closing track, “Baby Please” is just the two leaders on a lowdown blues, with Del Toro's darkest vocal turn over his menacing guitar sound.

DelGrosso is nominated for the fifth time for a Blues Music award for his skill as an instrumentalist. Del Toro won the Albert King Award as the best guitar player at the 2005 International Blues Challenge. And when musicians like Billy Flynn are singing your praises, the rest of us had better sit up and take notice. If you haven't taken the time to check out them out, get a copy of this one right away. They serve up traditional blues in a variety of settings with DelGrosso's mandolin giving the music a unique texture while Del Toro provides a clinic on generating awesome sound from a guitar. This one is highly recommended !!!

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

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