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December 2010

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Tom Principato
A Part Of Me
Powerhouse Records

Tom Principato

Tom Principato has been on the blues scene, mostly in the Washington, D.C. area, since the 1970s. He's been both a bandleader and a record label owner, and his newest CD, A Part Of Me, is released on his own Powerhouse Records. It's the first CD he's released with all original music, and for this joyous ride he's rounded up some of the best backing musicians in the D.C. area as well as several nationally-known artists.

Principato kicks off A Part Of Me with the rockin' number "Don't Wanna Do It," given a swampy feel to it by Louisianan native Sonny Landreth's slide guitar and keyboards from former Allman Brother Chuck Leavell.

"Sweet Angel" is one of my favorite cuts on the disc, as Principato starts off with a funky guitar intro before launching into a homage to his own sweet angel. Leavell's B-3 accompaniment adds a nice touch to this feelgood number. The title cut, a slow blues ballad just dripping with emotion, follows and is highlighted by Principato's blues guitar licks and killer horn work from none other than Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns.

Principato takes the listener "Down The Road" with a funky, jazzy instrumental featuring killer keyboard from guest Brian Auger and some innovative guitar picking by the boss of the show. Laying down a solid rhythm is bassist Willie Weeks, a veteran session player most recently associated with Eric Clapton. It's a six and a half minute voyage that ends much too quickly.

Leavell is back to join in on "Down In Lou'siana," which not surprisingly is given a New Orleans second line beat through the rhythmic drumming of Joe Wells. The band turns jazzy again for the sparse instrumental "Back Again & Gone," which primarily features Principato's guitar backed only by a very subtle rhythm section; the guitar work is sublime.

Gali Sanchez's congos gives the next cut, the snaky and mysterious "Stranger's Eyes," kind of a Santana vibe to this mid-tempo number. The album then ends with a variation of the previous cut, called "Stranger's Eyes Pt. 2," in which the volume goes up and Principato puts a little more oomph into the guitar solo. Unless you're listening carefully, you won't notice that there really are two separate cuts here.

This project was a personal trip down memory lane for Principato, as the disc jacket is populated by numerous family photos and other landmarks that were part of his childhood, as well as what looks like every school photo every taken of him.

A Part Of Me is not by any means a straight blues album. Principato is so talented and versatile that he never confines himself to just one style, resulting in an album that is a delightful blend of his diverse musical influences.

--- Bill Mitchell


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