Blues Bytes


February/March 2016

Jonn Del Toro Richardson
Tengo Blues
VizzTone Label Group


Tengo in Spanish translates to “I Have” or more loosely, “I Have the,” in the case of Jonn Del Toro Richardson’s new disc, Tengo Blues. I’ve known Jonn for well over 10 years now and am happy to see my friend step from the ranks of a well-known side man to Diunna Greenleaf in her Blue Mercy Band and Otis Taylor to the lead dog in this hunt. Jonn is influenced by his Latino roots and the soul of this Houston artist is alive and well in Tengo Blues, let’s give it a listen.

It should be noted that legendary producer Anson Funderburgh is at the helm for Jonn’s debut disc and enlisted the likes of Wes Starr on the drums, Nick Connoly on keys, Nathan Rowe on bass, Jonn’s own uncle Lawrence Del Toro on percussion and the Mighty Texas Horns to round out the recording party. It’s an impressive list of musicians and they all contributed to the vision that Jonn and Anson had for this record.

The Texas Horns provide the intro to Jonn’s first track, “Living Behind the Curtain,” a veiled reference to Jonn’s propensity to stay in the shadows as opposed to stepping out front. Jonn’s fretwork is setting the tone and he’s more than happy to share his feelings with us here. “Living behind the curtain…is where I’ve stayed…we all have our reasons…the guilt and shame…the crosses we bear…we think are hard to explain…but living behind the curtain…is where I stayed.” Fortunately Jonn found his way forward into the light and now, “Living life outside the curtain…is where I’ll stay.”

“I’m Her Man” is the next track on Jonn’s disc and here we find him madly in love. “The first time I saw her…it was love at first sight…just one touch…it felt so right…I could make her scream…with the touch of my hand…I’m her man.” Jonn sounds happy here and he’s definitely in love with this girl of his dreams. Jonn’s always been a great guitarist and his intricate fretwork sets the tone for our next track, “Love if You Want it.” “I got your hugging…I got your squeezing…I got your touch when you need pleasing…I’ve got love if you want it…love if you need it right now.” Jonn’s ready and willing to give you the loving you want…if you need it right now.

“Triple Lindig” is our next cut and an instrumental track that leans heavily on Nick’s keyboard work with a touch of the Texas Horns. Jonn’s fretwork is front and center here as well and in my mind’s eye I can see him concentrating heavily on the intricate picking he’s displaying here. We move on to “The Moment,” and the Mariachi influences of Jonn’s grandparents, aunts and uncles figure prominently here. “When our eyes first met…I fell in love…oh how they sparkled…like stars up above…I saw my future in her eyes…love’s burning flame.” Jonn fell hard…Jonn fell fast and the rest is love, sweet love. Most of Jonn’s writing centers around the topic of love and that continues on in “Can’t Run From Love”. “You can’t fight it…you can’t deny it…no matter what you say…you can’t run from love.”

“Get Me Back to Texas” is an ode to Jonn’s home state and I’m sure he doesn’t like being away from his beloved Houston for very long. “Get me back to Texas…fast as you can… it’s like heaven on earth…Texas is where I want to land.” You can take the boy out of Texas but you can’t take Texas out of the boy. Jonn’s eagerness to get home is apparent in his fretwork and I can’t blame him for wanting to get back to Texas and some great barbecue.

Our tempo slows way down and Jonn tackles his first ballad of the disc next in “This I Know,” most definitively a love song. “Freckles on her shoulders…sun-kissed face…dark, flowing face…that tends towards the night air…my baby loves me…yes, my baby loves me…this I know.” This woman has a heart as big as Texas and she loves Jonn with all of it and that makes him a very lucky man indeed. Passionate tones emanate from Jonn’s guitar here and all is definitely right in this Texan’s world at the moment. Beautiful song, Jonn, and it’s probably my favorite tune on this disc.

This theme of love continues on our next cut, “Tall Pretty Baby,” as well. The tempo is faster here but Jonn’s passion for this woman is equally apparent. “Well, I love my baby…got those great big eyes…can’t wait to see her…love her tell the day I die.” Anson’s fretwork is on display here and he lends just the right tone to augment Jonn’s love for his “tall, pretty baby.” “Here She Comes” continues to express Jonn’s passion for the woman he loves and he’s beaming with pride here. “Here comes my baby…coming up to see me…here comes my lover…she’s coming up to see me.”

Enough of the love songs, Jonn, it’s time for a little heartbreak in the mix here. We move on to “Wild Ride” and here Jonn is at least admitting to the road less traveled. “The truth would be easier…and simpler too…if I stayed between the lines…followed all the rules…can’t believe the things…I get myself into.” His blues has take Jonn all over the world and I’m familiar with some of the stories that fall outside of the lines that embellish Jonn’s wilder side. The Texas Horns are back in play with some of Jonn’s stellar fretwork as we move on to “Tell Me Do You Love Me”. “Tell me…do you love me…do you really care…tell me baby, don’t want to take my love elsewhere.” Jonn’s not sure where he stands in this woman’s eyes and he’s about to walk out that door if she can’t say the right things to make him stay.

We close with the title tune, “Tengo Blues,” and it’s a sweet instrumental that let’s Jonn stretch his wings one last time for us on his guitar. His Latin roots are evident in his fretwork here and I appreciate the rich, musical heritage of one Jonn Del Toro Richardson.

I’ve really enjoyed this disc from Jonn. We go way back to 2005 when he, Diunna and the rest of Blue Mercy advanced from the Rum Boogie to win the IBC. Jonn was the well deserving winner of the Albert King Award for most promising guitar player and its Jonn’s guitar that leads the way on Tengo Blues. It’s nice to see that Jonn has finally decided to live “in front of the curtain” and I know there’s a lot more to hear from this Texas Bluesman in the future. You can find out more about Jonn and grab a copy of Tengo Blues on his website at And kudos to the good folks at Vizztone for helping bring Jonn’s record to the light of day.

--- Kyle Deibler



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