Cascade Blues Assoc. – Review

This Time Another Year

By Greg Johnson-Cascade Blues Association

CBA-logoThis is Brandon Santini’s sophomore solo disc and he has thrown together a stellar band to work with, most notably the addition of guitarist Jeff Jensen. The pairing of Santini and Jensen has proven to be somewhat magical as Santini’s easy-going manner onstage is offset by the frenetic pace of Jensen’s guitar playing. They’re the perfect foils for one another.

Santini has an exceptional knack for writing tasteful songs with memorable instrumental catches and lyrics. The title song, a reworking of Charlie Musselwhite’s “This Time Another Year,” maintains a steady walk as Santini’s harp rolls back and forth, crisp but never overplayed, making the song totally his own. Again with Jensen the two trade off leads on the number enhancing with the right amount of fills to compliment the other. Early in his career Santini had a tendency to play like John Popper, but over the years he has matured following the path of Chicago masters like Sonny Boy Williamson or Little Walter instead. He has mastered that direction knowing that when you blow a note you make it have meaning, it does not need to be overworked. And with that sense Santini has built his own unique sound that is as easily identifiable as those aforementioned greats.

Speaking of Sonny Boy, there are two covers of his on this disc, “Bye Bye Bird” and “Raise Your Window.” They are done with glowing tribute to the master, yet also delivered with an original sound of their own at the same time. Most of the tracks are originals by the band and are quite pleasant and bluesy. I love the step-up of “Got Good Lovin’,” the slow blues of “Late In The Evening” and the frivolity of “Fish Is Bitin’” co-written by Jensen and bassist Bill Ruffino. Jeff Jensen rises to the forefront with his sensational playing on “Dig Me A Grave”.

The band, besides Jeff Jensen, includes the aforementioned Bill Ruffino, who like Jensen departed from the West Coast to Memphis where he teamed up with his former bandmate. On drums is longtime Memphis musician James Cunningham who has worked with Robert Nighthawk Tooms and Mike Forrest in various band formats, including the Wampus Cats and the Eric Hughes Band. Making a guest appearance on three numbers is Victor Wainwright including “What You’re Doing To Me” which he co-wrote with Santini and Jensen. The band also covers one of Wainwright’s pieces, “Coin Operated Woman.”

I first met Brandon Santini many years ago, introduced by mutual friend Billy Gibson. At the time Gibson was working seemingly constantly on Beale Street, earning the moniker “The Prince of Beale Street.” Gibson is not as common a sight on Beale anymore, but Santini has surely taken on the role himself. You can find the band working the clubs several times a week. Perhaps it is time to pass the title from Gibson to Santini. A more worthy successor would be hard to find. Brandon fits it nicely. And This Time Another Year supports the claim.

Total Time: 53:33

Got Good Lovin’ / This Time Another Year / What You Doing To Me / Late In The Evening / Dig Me A Grave / Bye Bye Bird / Things You Putting Down / Been So Blue / Coin Operated Woman / Help Me With The Blues / Raise Your Window / Fish Is Bitin’