Thursday, April 26, 2012

Back Porch Dogma reviewed by David Stine

Back Porch Dogma
Blind Pig Records
13 tracks

The Contino name may only be familiar to those old enough to have seen Dick Contino on The Ed Sullivan Show back in the day. Here Pete Contino (the son) takes the reigns of his band producing a nice mix of blues, jazz, country, latin, rock, Cajunesqe, roots music. It’s kind of a nice break to hear full accordion rather than the somewhat limited Cajun style one key accordions. Contino is: Pete Contino on vocals and accordian, Rob Edwards on upright bass, Al Ek on guitar, Jim Lovgren on drums, AND Billy Truitt on keyboards. Too many keys you think? No –  it works very well. Admittedly, I’m one of those people who runs when he sees an accordion, from MANY nights forced to watch The Lawrence Welk Show, but thank you Pete Contino for making me face my prejudices here.

The CD kicks off with a rockin’ good time tune “Rotgut Run.” While the piano and bass move the song along at a highway pace, the bridge at first seems like it was pulled out of a 60s psychedelic tune. When the harmonica-to-accordion solo hits, it all seems to come together. This song works well on many levels. The shave-and-a-haircut beat of “Big Tent” quickly becomes a revival meeting with the aid of Maria Muldaur, Omega Rae, and Suzan Z. as the “choir.” Here, we have some nice slide guitar from Al Ek as well as piano from Truitt. No “blues” yet, but my toes are tappin’. This changes with song three, the Hoochie Coochie Man approach to Willie Love’s “V-8 Ford.” Pete Contino doesn’t have the biggest blues voice but he makes the most of here. The Latin beat on Tom Waits’ “Temptation” really benefits from the accordion on cut 4. Everyone gets to solo on this song and they do they stay within the feel without showboating. “Zydeco Train” is, as the name implies, a Zydeco meets country tune that will have you dancing. Things slow down a bit for the Van Morrison sounding “Dog Days.” Is this a tribute to laziness? Perhaps, but you’ll be singing along. The standup bass-driven “One Thing” is hard to categorize and that’s the point of this CD, I believe. The harmonica here wails like Chicago blues but the song is entirely genre less. “Thee Cool Cats.” addresses a lesser-known Leiber and Stoller tune and blend, again, a Latin feel with Contino’s accordion riffs. “Taint” is somewhat familiar, riff-wise, but the cleverness of the lyrics and the musicianship make this tune stand with the others and not become filler. Look out Mose Allison, here’s your replacement! On “Nothing You Can Do,” the tremolo-laden guitar and electric piano aid Contino in this end-of-a-relationship ballad. Jim Liban’s “I Don’t Want To Know,” is maybe the closest Contino comes to a standard blues tune on this disc. Here, it is delivered without straying from standard blues instrumentation: piano, harp, guitar, bass, and vocals. “Monkey” is, like so many songs here, genre less. A dreamy 70’s sounding song, it still fits with the whole of the album. “Dino’s,” a ragtime meets traditional jazz bends us again into the realization that Conino’s (the band, that is) aspiration to write “outside the box” has been met. Most of the songs were, indeed, band penned and arranged. While not really a blues CD, roots music and music fans looking for something fresh will enjoy the eclecticism of this CD. You may even want to dig out grandma’s accordion.

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