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.