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July 1997

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Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers
Tough and Tender
Tone-Cool Records

Tough and Tender album coverRod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers has always been one of the tightest road bands in the blues world, attracting loyal fans wherever they travel. But it's been five years since the release of their last studio album. After their second new disk for Black Top Records came out in 1992, they made a questionable career move in leaving Black Top for Big Mo, a little "mom and pop" record label in Vermont. The Big Mo release, "Live From B.B. King's" was a hot set, but didn't receive the promotion and distribution it deserved.

But the Mighty Flyers are back with an excellent new release for Tone-Cool Records, one of the Rounder family of labels. Tough and Tender captures the band at its best, which means plenty of sizzling instrumental solos and Piazza's powerful harmonica and vocals.

Rod Piazza blowing his harpThe album kicks off with the aptly-named "Power of the Blues," a red-hot number featuring the first of many smokin' harp solos by Piazza. The title cut, "Tough and Tender," is the highlight of the CD; Honey Piazza sets the pace early with blistering boogie woogie piano work, sandwiched between some equally blazing harmonica breaks by Rod.

On "The Teaser," Rod sounds a siren call to all harp freaks to pay close attention --- class is now in session, folks. The interplay between the harmonica and Rick Holmstrom's excellent guitar on this instrumental is wonderful. "Under The Big Top" is another instrumental showcasing Holmstrom and his prodigious talents. And Rick gets to play some nasty, fuzzy guitar on the novelty tune "Scary Boogie" --- be sure to include this tune on your next Halloween party tape.

Finally, Miss Honey again is given the opportunity to tear up the ivories on "Hang Ten Boogie." This woman just does not get enough recognition for her talents.

Tough and Tender is an excellent disk. Let's hope we don't have to wait another five years for the next one from the Mighty Flyers.

- Bill Mitchell

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