Tuesday , May 21 2024
They commit themselves to each song like it's the last thing they might ever do in their lives.

Blues Bash Music Review: David Rotundo – Blues Ignited

Sometimes you just get lucky, that's all there is to it. You go to a bar and the band playing just blows you away. You'd never heard of them before and you still wouldn't know who they were if you hadn't happened to go out that night.

Every so often my wife gets the urge to go out dancing and the hardest part is finding music to dance to. She's not interested in going to any of the "dance" clubs with music that will turn your brain into shredded wheat and a night that usually ends in a knife fight out on the street or some other such drunken stupidity.

There aren't many adult bars in Kingston, Ontario where we live that have live music you can dance to and where she would feel comfortable with the crowd. Thankfully, there is one and when she phoned that Saturday to find out who was playing, she was told it was some blues guy who was really good and who played music you could dance to.

As I'm not physically able to go dancing, I didn't go with her and her friends, but I was awake when she came home. Normally, she'll just talk about some amusing incident and then just head for bed, but on this night she couldn't stop talking about the band she had seen. She'd even gone so far as to ask them for a CD so I could review it for them.

It takes a lot for her to get that excited about some band she's seen in a bar, so I was intrigued. I picked up the CD to check out the packaging and see if I knew anyone associated with the band. They were out of Toronto, Ontario where I had lived for most of my life, so the chance of me knowing them wasn't too far-fetched, but, in this case, I drew a complete blank. The only connection I was able to make being they occasionally played with a guitarist I knew of, Jack deKeyzer.

So who was this David Rotundo and what made him so good that my wife wouldn't shut up about him and his band's music for a couple hours after coming home? Well, the easiest way of finding out was to listen to the CD she brought home and check him out for myself.
Blues Ignited by David Rotundo and his band is fourteen tracks of really good electric blues you don't expect to hear from a bar band. The primary reason is these guys aren't a bar band – they are a blues band who happen to play the bar circuit. Like so many other blues musicians these days, there really isn't any other place for them to play.

Before I digress into how stupid it is for the music industry to allow folks like this to remain in the shadows while others of infinitely less talent hog the limelight, I'll quickly bring my focus to Rotundo's disc. The first thing I noticed is every single song is an original he's either written or co-written with guest guitarist Enrico Crivellaro. There's not even one traditional title arranged by the performer like you'd see on so many other blues discs.

It takes a fair amount of bravery when you are a relative unknown to put out a disc of all original material, especially when you're producing and distributing it yourself. So even before I put the disc in the player, I had a good opinion of the band and David Rotundo for that reason alone.

Blues Ignited does nothing to change that good opinion, except to reinforce and strengthen it. This is classic electric blues played the way it's supposed to be played — with every ounce of the band's energy being put into every note. Recordings aren't always the friendliest of things for a high energy blues band, because they usually aren't able to capture the feel the band generates while performing live.

But these guys don't need an audience to feed off to generate energy. From the opening notes of the first song "Stranger" to the close of "I've Got To Move" fourteen songs later, they keep the energy flowing. It can be a silly little boogie-woogie song like "I Want To Get Lucky" or the harder edge of "Worries & Troubles," and it doesn't matter. They commit themselves to each song like it's the last thing they might ever do in their lives.

As the front man, vocals, and harmonica, the responsibility for making this work rides heavily on the shoulders of David Rotundo, and he rises to the occasion each and every time. He sings with expression and emotion but without the melodrama that marks so many of today's insipid pop stars. On the lighter songs, you can hear the smile in his voice that contrasts nicely to the tension he can generate when needed.

What I especially liked about his harmonica playing is not only does he know how to solo, but he also can become just another instrument in the band. He doesn't dominate the rest of the group when not soloing and uses his harp to counterpoint either the rhythm or support a lead. Not only is he the front man, but he's also a member of the band, which makes for a much more cohesive unit and a better overall sound.

For this disc, the usual band of Shane Scott on bass, Greg Cooper on the drums, and Peter Schmidt on guitar, are augmented by Julian Fauth on keyboards and Enrico Crivellaro on guitar. This is going to sound like a strange compliment to pay to them, but you hardly notice the individual members of the band at all. That doesn't mean their guitar solos aren't solid or their rhythm work sucks, it means they play for the song, not for themselves.

Perhaps that's why they are able to bring so much of their live show feel to a studio album. They play as a unit, no matter what the circumstances. They don't do anything differently on stage than they do in the studio. There's no way anyone can have as much fun in the studio as they do on stage, it's not possible, but these guys sound as if they are trying their best.

Playing the blues on the bar circuit in Canada is not something you do in the hopes of getting famous or wealthy quick, you've got to be doing it for love of the music and love of playing. You're going to be traveling all over the country, probably by car and van, and having to lug your own equipment on and off stage each and every night. Some nights, there are going to be drunken jerks in the bar who will do their best to make your life miserable, but still you keep doing it.

You can't play under those conditions for any length of time without having an absolute love for what you're doing, and that love for what you’re doing can't help but shine through in your performance, whether it's a live show or a recording. Blues Ignited by David Rotundo and band is as fine an example of that as you're going to find out there.

If you want to pick up a copy of Blues Ignited your going to have to go to David Rotundo's website or catch them at a gig. Either way it's worth the money you'll spend.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of three books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion" and "Introduction to Greek Mythology For Kids". Aside from Blogcritics he contributes to Qantara.de and his work has appeared in the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and has been translated into numerous languages in multiple publications.

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