A Sweet Relief Tribute to Joey Spampinato
This is an amazing group of artists all generously donating their proceeds from these recordings to the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund to support NRBQ founding member/bassist/songwriter Joey Spampinato with his current health issues. Joey’s wife Kami Lyle and producer Sheldon Gomberg rallied a group of musicians that’s as arguably as strong as any you’ll find for a tribute album when it was revealed that Joey was battling cancer. Those familiar with NRBQ, founded in 1969, know that the band played so many different genres that a pop song could sit aside a zydeco tune or even free jazz styled on Sun Ra. The early lineups of NRBQ lasted 40 years and Spampinato’s influence spread to such high profile artists as Keith Richards and Paul McCartney. So, this a tribute album that stands above most not only for the caliber of artists appearing but the quality of Spampinato’s songs, 14 in total, rich with joyous, melodic hooks and lyrics ringing with empathy.
It’s fitting that longtime member, guitarist/vocalist Al Anderson begins with the high spirited “You Can’t Hide” which appeared on NRBQ from 1969. The unmistakable sound of Los Lobos follows with David Hildago singing “Every Boy, Every Girl” (from God Bless Us All, 1987). Deer Tick steps in with “That I Get Back Home” (from Tiddlywinks, 1987), all in advance of a truly mega lineup for “Like a Locomotive” (from Wild Weekend, 1989). It features Ben Harper, Keith Richards, Charlie Musselwhite, Benmont Tench, Don Was and the late Don Heffington. Keith Richards tapped Spampinato to play bass behind Chuck Berry in the all-star tribute Hail! Hail! Rock n’ Roll, claiming that Spampinato could make the electric bass swing like an upright.
Other highlights include The Minus 5 doing “Don’t She Look Good” (from Kick Me Hard, 1979), Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale taking one of more recent vintage, “How Will I Know” (from Smiles, 2013), and the current version of NRBQ led by co-founder Terry Adams supporting Bonnie Raitt on “Green Lights” (from At Yankee Stadium, 1978). The album closes appropriately with the only non-NRBQ tune, “First Crush,” written by Spampinato and his wife Kami Lyle, both of whom play and sing on the track.
NRBQ is the abbreviation for New Rhythm and Blues Quartet (originally Quintet) for the band founded in 1965. To borrow this revealing graph from Wikipedia shows clearly that other than Adams, who still leads the current edition of the band, Spampinato had the longest running tenure. You’ll note the Anderson, and the current members – Adams, Ligon, McDonough, and Perrin are the only ones to appear on this tribute. Ferguson, Ardolino, and Hicks have since passed. The fact that so many non-members, both veteran and newer acts, appear here is a tribute to Spampinato’s songwriting, his rather unique bass playing, and his ability to form lasting relationships. Let’s hope he can defeat that beast which is cancer.
- Jim Hynes
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