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Album Review

Rod Piazza has been leading the Mighty Flyers since the early '80s, and on this, his fourth album, he's still doing what he does best, making down-and-dirty music that pays tribute to the bluesmen of the past while delivering choice originals that may one day be considered as highly as the standards they tackle. Case in point, "Cheap Wine," by Rod and his wife, pianist Honey, is a second-line stomp that pays tribute to low-rent thrills. Honey's strutting piano and Rod's harp complement the polyrhythmic groove of drummer Dave Kida, while Rod turns in a loose, boozy vocal. "Tell Me About It Sam" is a remake of a tune called "Blues in 92" played as a tribute to Rod's pal Sam Meyers who passed in 2006. Its lyric about the inevitability of hard times and tight money sounds even more timely in 2009; Rod's harp solo is big, bold, and blue, and his singing's full of anger and anguish. Honey's piano work is just as dazzling, with fast right-hand runs tossing of sparks to highlight her husband's deep blue tone. Two instrumentals let the band show off their considerable chops: "Expression Session" is a shuffle that displays Rod's playful side, with Henry Carvajal's guitar trading phrases with Rod as the tune closes, while the title track is a slow, grinding, gritty blues marked by Rod's gruff harp and Carvajal's clanging, chattering guitar. The covers span the entire history of the blues starting with Big Bill Broonzy's "Key to the Highway," a secular spiritual that's played here as a slow shuffle marked by Rod's weary vocal, Honey's late-night piano arpeggios, and Carvajal's measured rhythm work. Jimmy Liggins' "That's What's Knockin' Me Out" is given a gentle swing treatment while the Piazzas duet on the early rock & roll standard "Ko Ko Mo." Carvajal sings lead on "Talk to Me," a hit for Little Willie John in 1958, bringing the same soulful, tear-drenched tone to his performance that made the original so affecting. ~ j. poet, Rovi

Soul Monster, Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers Blues Quartet
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