The Italian born blues, soul and reggae guitarist Breezy Rodio first made his mark with Linsey Alexander for a decade before debuting solo in 2011 and importantly on Delmark in 2018. So, yes, he is steeped in Chicago blues with a unique guitar style that according to producer of this album Underground Blues, Anson Funderburgh, traces to his use of his thumb rather than a pick. Together the two have described this latest outing as “Chicago West Side Modern Blues,” a sound that owes to swing, Magic Sam, and maybe just a smidgeon of Funderburgh’s driving Texas approach. Gone unanswered here, as is true for others who recorded on Delmark recently, just what happened that prompted a move to another label?
Anyway, Rodio’s searing, captivating sound remains in place beginning with the opener “Half Way In The Devil’s Gate” awash with B3 organ, searing guitar from both he and Funderburgh and a hypnotic, slightly back in the mix vocal that takes a few seconds to adjust to. The vocal and instrumental elements come together forcefully on the clever wordplay of “C.H.I.C.A.G.O” over a shuffle that has Josh Fulero blowing harp and Dan Tabion pounding the piano. The title track is a showcase for Rodio’s burning guitar, exemplifying why Funderburgh commented, “He gets a cool vibe unlike any other guitar player out there.”
Funderburgh was also so impressed with Rodio’s custom-made Olivia Rhino guitar, that he used it himself on “Playing My Game Too,” driven hard by bassist Johnny Bradley and drummer Lorenzo Francocci in a funky tune that rests on a series of back beats with Rodio singing passionately over the piercing guitar and swirling B3. Rodio delivers a stern warning to a friend with “That Damn Cocaine,” a tune that begins with a soulful groove but blossoms into a spiraling guitar excursion that accents his admonishing lyrics. The boogie bass line of “The Murder” recalls The Doors “Roadhouse Blues” with Fulero blowing a storm on harp and Rodio taking a stinging guitar solo that doesn’t resemble the one played by Lonnie Mack on The Doors hit. Rodio is singing about a man escaping the fury of a woman scorned, typical blues stuff. “Lightning Strike” moves into slow, smoldering blues with Rodio’s expressive guitar cutting deep as he holds back nothing in the vocal as well.
Fulero joins for the jazzy instrumental, “The Asymptomatics,” also a feature for pianist Tabion. The defiant “Let Me Go” sends chills with Rodio reaching into a deep growl on his vocals while Tabion supports on the B3 and Rodio’s guitar hits the right notes, rather than a whole slew of them. “Gerry Told Me is an autobiographical tale of the determination to make it in the music business with the storyline assuming more focus than the music. Tabion’s piano and Fulero’s chromatic harp, sounding almost like a saxophone, drive the New Orleans-styled “Hello Friendo” before Rodio plunges headfirst into the slow burning classic Chicago 12 bar style in “Sugar Daddy” for the disc’s most impassioned track. We get the swinging type of Chicago blues, an extension of 50’s R&B in “Why Did You Go,” yet another example of his clean, fluid guitar playing, a trait he shares with his producer. The closer is more contemporary as he mixes spoken word with slow, burning sustained notes, declaring his love for the music in “Bluesoned,” a takeoff on “poisoned.”
This is authentic – no wasted notes, impassioned vocals, and that chilling, goosebump inducing guitar playing that only the best who really “feel it” deliver.
- Jim Hynes