Recorded earlier this year in two clubs -- one in Ocean City, Md., the other in Goricka, Slovenia -- "Live and Kickin' " is the rough-toned but right stuff you'd expect to hear from a blues veteran who's been working the club circuit for decades.
Principato didn't go in for any sweetening here, just the sound of his Tele and Strat guitars up close and personal, often ripping through a series of tunes forcefully underpinned by bassist John Perry and drummerElTorro Gamble. Merle Haggard's classic "Today I Started Loving You Again," converted into an electric blues shuffle, kicks things off, followed by tunes that veer back and forth between expansive romps and exquisite six-string meditations. The former includes "Kansas City Blues," a showcase for rousing Chuck Berry-flavored double stops and some tasty chicken-pickin', while the latter includes Principato's own moody blues, "Stranger's Eyes." That song, along with another original ballad, the languid instrumental "In the Clouds," features Principato guitar work at its most eloquent and expressive. Perhaps the biggest crowdpleaser, though, is "One for Danny," a wonderfully evocative and fleet-fingered Tele tribute to Danny Gatton, brimming with rockabilly riffs, twangy overtones and chromatic twists.
Principato can also be heard on "Telecats 1," the result of an unlikely alliance of Telecaster players who got together to record an album in Bavaria two years ago. Beginning with his own ballad, "Dark in the Night," Principato distinguishes himself early on as a key soloist on "Telecats 1" before contributing to duets or arrangements that involve the entire cast. Though sometimes undermined by stilted vocals, the guitar tracks are nearly always entertaining -- atmospheric, soulful and spirited by turns.
Appearing Friday at Paddy Mac's and Saturday at the State Theatre. To hear a free Sound Bite from Tom Principato, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8132. For a free Sound Bite from Telecats, press 8133. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)