The PR for this way cool disc asks the question: "Mandolin in the blues?", but needn't answer itself, as Rich del Grosso says it all in the first cut. He starts with a soulful slide line then, when Jonn del Toro Richardson amps up into a Billy Gibbons groovestomp, he yanks his mando to the fore and goes to town. The two trade off lead and rhythm duties, Grosso getting that high-strung sound only a mandolin is capable of while Richardson tears up the guitar in a wailing burn that has brought him to the attention of such legends as Hubert Sumlin and Pinetop Perkins, both of whom he's played beside.
A Memphis-styled horn section steps into the more soulful cuts (title track & etc.), getting sassier 'n hell on the intro to Shotgun Blues, stepping back out when Sonny Boy Terry takes over the harmonica duties elsewhere. Bogglingly, every cut on this 14-track showcase is an original written by either Grosso or Richardson (one by both) while seeming straight out of the deep South. On Mandolin Man, Grosso gets seriously backdated and makes that small eight-stringed gee-tary thingamajig sound just like something that would've accompanied Howlin' Wolf. No joke. The essence is so authentic that I wouldn't've been surprised had a washboard and tub bass also chimed in. Quite a wake up for those who thought the instrument was hidebound to its usual folk and cowboy confines.
Del Grosso and Richardson were made to play together, kicking up their heels in thick, nasty, smoky blues swinging and swaying in a hot delta breeze wafting up to Nashville. They also sing as though fresh from a feast of ribs and jambalaya, whiskey on the side. Still, a mandolin in the blues is pretty damned unique, I've certainly never heard it done before, and if you favor a bit of Roy Buchanan in your wailing guitar, then Richardson fills the bill nicely…but together? Man, you have no clue how the two amplified axes can complement each other so grittily and so sweetly at the same time. Time may indeed slip on by, but their playing doesn't, and it'll stick in your ear for years to come.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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