Blues Bytes


December 2011

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Toronzo Cannon
Leaving Mood
Delmark Records

Toronzo Cannon

I have to say that 2011 has been a fantastic year for blues recordings. Most years, there’s one or two that stand out, but this year has been different. One of the standouts this year comes courtesy of perennial favorite Delmark Records from a Chicago singer/guitarist named Toronzo Cannon. Cannon has been a regular contributor to the Windy City’s blues scene since the late ’90s, serving as sideman, bandleader, and even fronting his own band, the Cannonball Express, during that time. Leaving Mood is his second release and his debut for Delmark.

Although he only began playing guitar in his twenties, Cannon grew up around the legendary blues club, Theresa’s, where his uncle worked. Cannon heard and absorbed a lot of different styles, and his version of the blues reflects the influences of rockers like Jimi Hendrix, area artists like Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, and Muddy Waters, the three Kings (B.B., Albert, and Freddie), and the deep funky soul and R&B of the ’70s. Unlike many up and coming artists, Cannon is also fully developed as a songwriter, penning some of the most original and unique lyrics heard in quite a while.

The opening cut, “She Loved Me,” is a crunching rocker that samples the melody from Hound Dog Taylor’s “She’s Gone.” The following track, “Chico’s Song,” is a tribute to Cannon’s friend, the too-soon departed Chico Banks. The incredible slow blues track, “Hard Luck,” stands out for multiple reasons, the lyrics about hard times that we can all relate to, Roosevelt Purifoy’s intense work on the keyboards, and the scorching guitar break from guest star Carl Weathersby (you can hear Weathersby break a string midway through his solo, but he never slows down).

Other standout tracks include the cathartic “Open Letter (To Whom It May Concern),” the funky “I Can’t Take Her Nowhere,” the harrowing title track, and “Earnestine,” which also features Weathersby. Cannon also does a fine cover of Nina Simone’s “Do I Move You.”

Cannon’s own guitar work is outstanding and his vocals are heartfelt and soulful. In addition to Weathersby and Purifoy, Cannon gets able assistance from rhythm guitarist Laurence Gladney (who also had a hand in writing several tunes), bass player Larry Williams, drummer Marty Binder, and harmonica ace Matthew Skoller on several tracks.

Leaving Mood will almost certainly find its way into my Top Ten for 2011. Toronzo Cannon seems to have the total package with this release, mixing great performances with some of the most entertaining original songs heard in years. This is as satisfying a disc as you will hear this year and maybe next year, too.

--- Graham Clarke
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