Bman’s Blues Report
By JenJo on April 21, 2013
By Bman ~ www.bmansbluesreport.com
I just received the new release, This Time Another Year, from Brandon Santini and it’s a cooker! Opening with Got Good Lovin’, harpist Santini wastes no time taking a shot at contemporary harp champs like Magic Dick. A hot blues rocker, Santini has a cool voice and can really get the harp flaming. Bill Ruffino on bass and James Cunningham on drums hold down the bottom and Jeff Jensen flys through with some slick riffs of his own on guitar. This Time Another Year, along the lines of Help Me, is a great track with roots deep in the blues with really great harp tone. Santini holds the band back to a simmer as he builds the pressure vocally and then drop in on harp for the swat. Really masterful. Jensen coaxes some nice riffs from the strings and Santini has the control of Jim Morrison just waiting to unleash the dogs. What You Doing To Me, is a great New Orleans tempo track on chromatic harp. Santini has a real great sensitivity for when and how to reel in the track. Interesting guitar work backed by Victor Wainwright on vocal and piano makes this a particularly strong track. Late In The Evening, a slow blues track, really highlights Santini’s vocal work and really makes you wonder how this guy isn’t hugely successful already… or if you’re living under a rock. (Maybe I am!) This is a terrific track and Wainwright plays as nice a blues piano solo as you’ve heard in years. I mean this is terrific. Jensen has a nice sensitivity to this track and plays a strong but sensitive guitar passage. Up pops Santini to take it home. All I can say is wow! This is really really strong! Dig Me A Grave moves into the R&B style and Santini shows his versatility and style. Jensen opens with a really nice solo and Santini has such a strong voice… instrumentation overall.. and particularly intermittent riffs by Jensen (great tone by the way) and ongoing lead harp work from Santini make this a particularly airplay worthy track… and I like it too! Bye Bye Bird, an old Williamson/Dixon track gets a light acoustic guitar, drums and harp treatment. This release is just consistently really super. Things You Putting Down is a great New Orleans blues style track and again Santini shows that he has a really super voice. A really strong harp player, Santini shows that you don’t always have to be fast or high to get your point across. Jensen plays another solid solo on this track and the band remains contained. Been So Blue gets Santini out front right away and Jensen plays some really jazzy chords under the melody taking the blues to a richer spot. Santini gets his harp singing, showing a nice compatibility between the blues and it’s jazz brother partner. Help Me With The Blues is a really hot track. This is the kind of harp track that even people who aren’t hot on harp love. (Think Hoy Hoy Hoy or Wammer Jammer). This is a fast paced jump track and Jensen does his share of crankin the spring, followed by the superb Wainwright. Santini steps in and throws on the gas… ouch… that is hot!! Williamson track Raise Your Window (One Way Out) gets a Latin kind of beat and Santini again shines on vocal and harp. Taking it down low, Santini shows some real pyrotechnics. The final track on this outrageously cool recording is Fish is Bitin’, a cross between Cajun and Rock a Billy. Showing a nod to Ledbelly, this track is a cool wrap up for a really enjoyable and remarkable release. Excellent!MORE >>
By JenJo on March 23, 2013
By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro ~ www.mary4music.com
One of the highlights of my many trips to Memphis is having made friends with, and becoming a fan of, several of Beale Street’s finest local blues artists. Besides friendship and music, Blues Music Awards are another of their common denominators. One of them – Billy Gibson – has already won a Blues Music Award, another – Victor Wainwright – is a 2013 Blues Music Award nominee and this one – Brandon Santini -was a 2009 Blues Music Award nominee as part of his long time band, Delta Highway.
On this, his second release, Brandon Santini displays the harp ability of a Hummel, the soul of a Salgado, and the pizzazz of a Piazza . The way I see it, that could all add up to several Blues Music Award nods “This Time Another Year”…. oh, say 2014 to be exact.
On “This Time Another Year”, Brandon Santini, on vocals and harmonicas, is joined by: Jeff Jensen on electric & acoustic guitars and hand claps; Bill Ruffino on electric bass and hand claps; James Cunningham on drums, tambourine and hand claps; Victor Wainwright on piano and vocals; Chris Stephenson on organ; and Preston McEwen on hand claps. Of the discs twelve tracks, ten are written or co-written by Brandon.
The title track, co-written with Charlie Musselwhite, is about Brandon wondering just where he might be “This Time Another Year”. Although no one ever knows the exact answer to that, I’m hoping that wherever it is it involves him belting out some blues and blowin’ the hell out of a harp…..which he’s doing right here.
On “What You Doing To Me”, Brandon joins the list – led by the fat man himself – as one of my favorite performers singing a song about one of my favorite places. This one brought back fond memories of Fats Domino singing “Walking To New Orleans”. Highlighted by some of the discs best harp and piano playing from Brandon and Victor, along with them nailing it as a vocal duet, this one absolutely blew me away.
I always love when one of my favorite style of blues songs also happens to be the longest song on the disc. “Late In The Evening” is over seven minutes of down and dirty blues at it’s best. Brandon’s harp leads and vocals are saturated with soul, and the guitar and piano leads by Jeff and Victor are completely absorbing.
Backed by a soft rhythm groove coming from Bill, James and Chris on the bass, drums and organ and mellow guitar leads by Jeff, this shuffle highlights Brandon’s vocals skill. Oh yeah, he also blows the hell out of the harp, but it’s his cool, smooth singing style that steal the show on “Things You Putting Down”.
As far as pure coolness goes, it’s my opinion that it doesn’t get any cooler than Rod Piazza. C’mon, he looks cool, sounds cool, acts cool and basically defines cool. Listening to Brandon on “Been So Blue” has me believing I’m listening to the heir apparent.
When Brandon says “Help Me With The Blues”, the band immediately gets on it. Turn this one way up then hold on real tight. This one’s a lightning fast race to the finish and from the sounds of it, no one wants to finish second. Bill, James and Victor are delightfully delirious on this three alarm, rhythm fueled smoker.
“Fish is Bittin'” are words you might hear at a back woods hoedown full of country bumpkins.. Hmmmm…. that’s exactly what I thought of the song as well. Fun stuff that you just might catch yourself singing along to. Brandon and Jeff, on harp and acoustic guitar, work this out real well together.
More tracks on “This Time Another Year” include: “Got Good Lovin'”, “Dig Me A Grave”, “Bye Bye Bird”, “Coin Operated Woman”, and “Raise Your Window”.
Brandon Santini will be in my area in just a few short weeks and I’m stoked about it. You can check him out at www.brandonsantini.com/. While you’re there, in addition to telling him the Blewzzman sent you, also thank him for going to the Middle East and entertaining our troops as part of Bluzapalooza.MORE >>
Cascade Blues Assoc. – Review
By JenJo on March 11, 2013
This Time Another Year
By Greg Johnson-Cascade Blues Association
This 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’MORE >>