JOHNNY FONTAINE AND THE RIVALS Lemme Tell Ya!
The blurb is headlined Finest Mafia Blues Rock – Mafia Blues Without Compromise! Can’t say I’m sure about the Cosa Nostra connections apart from their Sicilian roots and propensity to wear hats but this is pretty fine Blues Rock and they make a very accomplished noise – not too shabby for a debut. Blues has become the language of the world and these days you can find Blues bands in just about every corner of the globe but in the majority of cases they are pretty poor, mainly in the vocal department. Johnny Fontaine and his rivals buck the trend because the songs are strong and the vocals actually make sense without odd emphases on words that are in the wrong place in the singer’s native language. Tom Marcozzi’s vocals are strong and his guitar playing is excellent, if a trifle derivative, while Philipp Ludi plays keys strongly and they are backed up by an excellent rhythm section of Lukas Zurcher and Christian Spahni but the star of the show is some excellent songs and arrangements that show that the band are loaded with self-belief and no little talent. Musically this has elements of Chicago Blues crossed with some New York funk and Texas raunch and when they stray into a ballad, as they do on Tell Me, they show that they have the chops for slow stuff as well (excellent contribution from Alice Cooper’s Vinnie Moore on this one). This Ain’t Mississippi is a brilliant 12 bar with a great vocal from Justina Lee Brown. This isn’t the album to change the world of Blues but it is a fine debut from a band whose commitment is surprisingly clear. I rather think I’d like to see them live but I will definitely be looking out for their follow up.