Album review: Tom Principato, "A Part of Me"
TOM PRINCIPATO "A Part of Me"
Kindred spirits: Danny Gatton, Roy Buchanan, Eric Clapton
Shows: Thursday at Rams Head Tavern. Show starts at 8 p.m. 410-268-4545. www.ramsheadtavern.com. $22.50. With Bill Kirchen & the Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods on Feb. 18. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. 703-549-7500. www.birchmere.com. $25.
Over the course of a 40-plus-year career, Washington blues guitarist and vocalist Tom Principato hasn't devoted an entire album to original tunes until now. "A Part of Me" is well worth the wait, and not just because Principato's songwriting facilitates his exceptional fretwork. Chemistry has a lot to do with it.
At first glance, the CD resembles a family album, the front cover a checkerboard array of vintage photos taken by patriarch Joseph Principato and others. But the music often evokes a soul summit, with slide guitarist Sonny Landreth, keyboardist Brian Auger, Hammond B-3 organist Chuck Leavell, bassist Willie Weeks and Memphis Horns trumpeter-arranger Wayne Jackson colorfully augmenting Principato's core band and Washington-based recruits.
The collaborations (and overdubbed tracks) add both heft and heart, beginning with "Don't Wanna Do It," a terrific Southern blues showcase for Landreth and Leavell. From there, Principato nimbly embraces Crescent City parade grooves ("Down in Lou'siana"), minor-key laments ("Stranger's Eyes"), shimmering interludes ("Back Again & Gone") and the album's sorrowful, soaring title track.
Conjuring the sound of this CD in concert won't be easy, but it's a safe bet the album will inspire and enliven Principato's performances from here on out.
- Mike Joyce