As guitarist Danny Petroni explains it, The Blue Project, his band and its self-titled first release, began as a reaction to hurricane Sandy. Work for Jersey Shore musicians was sparse after Sandy’s devastation: “Gigs cancelled, venues damaged, all music productions stopped in the immediate area.” Petroni’s idea was to create some work for local musicians with a locally produced blues record using his own original compositions. “The Danny Petroni Blue Project was born.”
He put together a rocking ensemble featuring the gritty vocals of Frank Lacy, who also plays some mean trombone, along with Gary Oleyar on violin, Gene Boccia on bass, Dave Halpern on drums, and a gaggle of talented guest locals. The album they have come up with pays some homage to traditional blues ideas, adds a touch of country, rock and even vintage rhythm and blues. The whole package, the combination of horns and vocals, reminds me of the vibe of Joe Turner, the Boss of the Blues.
Of the ten tracks on the CD, two are instrumentals, the horn-focused “Cracker Jack” and the guitar-centered “Diminishing Returns” which closes the album. Both Lacy and Petroni are energetic soloists who make the most of their opportunities.
The set opens with two fun-loving “fine women tunes,” “I’ve Seen Everything” and the metaphoric “Taste Like Chicken,” before embarking on a more serious note with the somber rage of “God of War,” which is more protest than blues. This is followed by the devastatingly dark “Requiem for a Working Man,” with its clever repetition of “I’m working” emphasizing the banal inevitability of meaningless work lost to outsourcing. Both pieces smack of the ’60s.
Jo Wymer adds her rich voice to accompany Lacy in the very traditional “I’ve Changed My Ways,” and tears it up. The tune is the blues highlight of the album. “Peanut Butter and Jelly” offers an interesting opportunity for some dirty trombone solo work, and “Hey You’re Looking Good” has perhaps the most modern sound on the disc. The penultimate “Mouse in the House” is a classic use of misdirection. Lacy sells it with gusto.
Over the years, musicians have taken the basic blues in a variety of different directions. Danny Petroni and The Blue Project are exploring some of those directions.