Big John D'Amato ain't one to mess around. Right from the opening bars of the first cut, the classic Mojo Working, he's full fury into guitar pyrotechnics like there's no tomorrow, ripping the frets up and nailin' back down again, fingers flying. The interesting thing is that his instrumental voice is completely original. I mean, the speed is Alvin Lee, the bent is Stevie Ray, the Chicago dirty white boy voicing is Kim Simmonds, but the notes are all his. Tell me the last time you heard that.
He also sings, a ground level and capable enough blues voice that needs a bit of work and a little more board engineering to have it measure up to his playing, but...man, that guitar! Slicing out lengthy swaths of soloing, this is an axe lover's weekend affair... with many returns daily for the following days, weeks, months, and years. There's also a street rawness that reminds of the Nighthawks and a smoky keyboard background in cuts like Stormy Monday that reaches back to elder days (brought right back again to the present with some Duane Allman-ish licks trotted out). Then there's D'Amato's keening take on Bonfa's Black Orpheus, which brings Ronnie Montrose's killer version of Town Without Pity screaming back to every aficionado's memory.
Hmmmm. Let me say that I've long held a deep and abiding love for Alvin Lee's drop-dead brilliance and inimitable style, the music world's been hurting since he retired, but D'Amato goes to great lengths to assuage that wistfulness, turning in performances all his own but so kindred to Lee's spirit that the room lights up. Nonetheless, he owes little to anyone, inventive and original while true to the genre. You might want to recall Les Dudek's solo work (and even some Chuck Berry), as Les possessed the same virtues in a different mode, always sparkling, but none of the comparatives I've cited will quite convey the captivating artistry: lazily melancholic here, torrid as hell there, but always one step ahead of the pack.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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