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Music Review: Michael Falzarano – We Are All One

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Michael Falzarano has been playing guitar with some of the top bands of this and the past century for 35 years. Outlaw country rock never had it so good.

He is one of those indispensable guys who’s known by everybody in the industry, while at the same time remaining nameless and unnoticed by the fans. The perfect sideman, as defined by many: A more than competent musician who doesn’t try to steal the spotlight from the star, no ruffles and flourishes, no antics; just straight ahead professional musicianship designed to make the star look good. Falzarano’s been touring recently with famous 1960s group New Riders of the Purple Sage who, while having only one real radio hit in their career [“Panama Red”], was and is still in heavy demand at music festivals worldwide. There’s a great chance for him – and for his new fans – to correct that lack of name-awareness.

Musical greats with whom Falzarano has played or recorded with would easily fill a page in itself. A few of these luminaries include Bob Weir, Robert Hunter, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, John Lee Hooker, Hubert Sumlin, Vassar Clements, Paul Simon, Dr. John, Graham Parker, Warren Haynes, Warren Zevon, Greg Allman, David Crosby, Arlo Guthrie, John Sebastian, Peter Rowan, Derek Trucks, Paul Kantner, Trey Anastasio, Commander Cody, Pinetop Perkins, Mark Karan, John Popper, and Professor Louie and the Crowmatix.

Falzarano’s groups, The Extended Family and The Memphis Pilgrims, as Grateful Dead, are always in heavy demand and have been the recipient of many laudatory press comments, such as this one from the East Coast Rocker: “… Michael Falzarano and The Memphis Pilgrims were hailed by the press as one of New York’s “best new bands” who were “simply and wonderfully a real rock ‘n’ roll band.”

And how ‘bout Hot Tuna, fronted by two founders and alumni of Jefferson Airplane, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady? Jorma was the Hot Tuna guitarist who was the “other guy,” the spine of the group, but who was always hiding from the camera. Casady was the long-haired guy with sunglasses and the Wyatt Earp hat.

We Are All One is multi-talented Falzarano’s third solo effort (14-cuts, 57 minutes). He’s also done some producing and remastering of Hot Tuna CDs. In addition to all the tunes on this CD, Falzarano has penned many of the most enduring songs of Hot Tuna, including a number of them on a sometimes hard to find Tuna CD title, Pair A Dice Found.

"Last Train Out," number 13 in the disc’s offerings, and which Falzarano wrote in memory of The Allman Brothers’ and Gov’t Mule’s late, well-known bass player Allen Woody, is destined to become a cult hit.

“Why I Love You I Can’t Explain” leads this CD off with more of a blues shuffle than outlaw country rock, but it’s the perfect vehicle for getting you in the mood for what’s to come. “Candy Man,” the fourth cut, will be instantly recognized as a Hot Tuna hit. It’s followed by the title cut which, as the name implies, is a call for world unity, and allows Falzarano to cut loose for some nice guitar work. “It’s Just My Way,” one of my favorite cuts, follows with some superb, straight ahead outlaw country jamming. My other favorite is the acoustic version of “We Are All One, the 12th selection, with Falzarano’s expert guitar playing taking center stage. “To Let The Fire Die” rests in third place on my favorite list.

I have to admit that, for many years, I was one of those many who are unaware of Falzarano’s talents. While living in Milwaukee, I became hooked on a local community supported station, WMSE, broadcasting from the Milwaukee School of Engineering. It’s about 90% volunteer-operated, so while it does have its shortcomings, it also has huge advantages over the usual radio fare of traffic, weather, five minutes of ads, the traffic again, a spot to remind us what a great radio station we’re listening to, the DJ reminding us what a great DJ we’re listening to, and finally: Three songs back-to-back. Nine-plus minutes of garbage, followed by less-than-that of overplayed, yet still decent music.

No, thank you.

WMSE offers their blues drive daily from three to six, Central Time, a different DJ each day. Hear them on the web at their website. Sonia does the Friday show and she’s had Falzarano on more than once. I didn’t pay attention to his first interview initially, but after I heard a couple of his tunes I took notice, and I’ve been a fan since.

Falzarano recently signed with Woodstock Records, and has with him on this CD a collection of musicians he likes to call The Extended Family — Vassar Clements, Melvin Seals, Buddy Cage, Jorma Kaukonen and Garth Hudson, to name a few.

The King James Session, Falzarano’s prior release on Blues Planet Records, also includes the song "Last Train Out."

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About Lou Novacheck