If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It
Breezy Rodio cut his teeth with Linsey Alexander and continues to prove on If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It, his fifth release, that he is a “real deal” bluesman as a bandleader.He’s got the guitar chops and the soulful vocals, with a voice quite different than many you’ll hear. In another setting he could be a stage musical singer as he’s smoother than the many gritty blues singers (although he can get plenty gritty when called for). Often, guest artists are an indication of the main artist’s authenticity, and Monster Mike Welch, Kid Andersen, Corey Dennison, Ouique Gomez and Billy Branch (who doesn’t guest but wrote the liners) attest to Rodio’s proven stature.
There’s a generous hour plus worth of music on these 16 tracks, mostly Rodio originals. His core band consists of eight, drawn from some of the city’s best – Rodio (vocals, guitar), Sumito “Ariyo” Ariyoshi (piano), Dan Tabion (organ), Light Palone (bass), Lorenzo Francocci (drums),Constantine Alexander (trumpet),Ian Letts (alto and tenor sax) and Ian “The Chief” McGarrie (baritone sax). There are seven guests as well. Welch plays a searing solo on the uplifting, gospel tribute to the late Michael Ledbetter, while Dennison sings on “Led to a Better Life,” one of many outstanding tracks. Rodio’s three-piece horn section gives these tunes a real robust sound and they know how to lay back to let his crisp guitar solos ring. Check out his B.B. King cover, “A Woman Don’t Care,” an excellent example of both his emotive vocal delivery and stinging guitar.
One of the most impressive aspects of this album is Rodio’s range, covering styles from the 1940s to the present. No two sound the same. Portions of “I’m a Shuffling Fool,” with Dennison on second guitar, channel Sam Cooke. The title track nods a bit to James Brown. “Desperate Lover,” with its horn parts and swirling organ evoke ‘60s soul. “A Minute of my Kissin’” burns hot with a rock n’ roll tempo, infused by the pounding piano. “Look Me in the Eye” seems like a jazz-like show tune with crisp horn solos and ensemble parts. “Los Christianos” is an unusual song and title, an autobiographical blues reflecting Rodio’s experiences while living in a utopian hippie district of Christiana in Copenhagen.
The epic “Green and Unsatisfied” is funky, filthy, and defiant. (yeah, he gets gritty here). “I’ll Survive,” is another B.B. King tune, in the vein of “There Must Be a Better World Somewhere,” again with terrific horn and piano parts. “Pick Up Blues” is one of only three tracks with harmonica, this from guest Ouique Gomez, but it’s more indication that Rodio is just at home in the vintage Chicago blues sound. “Dear Blues,” with some spoken word, follows in that smoldering, slow burning style as Rodio pays tribute to the Alberts. “I Need Your Love” is a ballad that captures perhaps Rodio’s best vocal performance and “Another Day,” a rousing, danceable shuffle, closes.
This is a carefully thought-out album, with its many styles, horn arrangements, and top shelf playing from all corners. Billy Branch says in the liners, “Stay tuned. The best is still to come.” It’s difficult to expect anything much better than this . As good as some of Rodio’s albums have been, this is his superior achievement to date. If Branch is right, we’re all beneficiaries. For now, dig in. There’s plenty to enjoy here.
- Jim Hynes