AJ Crawdaddy – Slow Cookin’ | Album Review

AJ Crawdaddy – Slow Cookin’

Renown Records

10 songs – 40 minutes

www.ajcrawdaddy.com

AJ Crawdaddy cooks up a pleasing mix of roots music for this release, his second solo effort after a self-imposed exodus from the limelight. But that should come as no surprise for anyone familiar with the man behind the moniker.

Born Angelo J. Rossi, Crawdaddy is a gifted guitarist/vocalist who reached the pinnacle of the music industry in the early 1990s as a member of the multi-platinum pop-rock group Pablo Cruise. A native of Palo Alto, Calif., that’s him in the mix of Cruise chart-toppers “A Place In The Sun,” “Whatcha Gonna Do (When She Says Goodbye)” and “Love Will Find A Way.”

A man who’s recorded with Jefferson Starship and worked with Jaco Pastorius, Hughie Lewis, Airto, Kid Andersen and Flora Purim, among others, he walked away from the music business for a career in sales after the release of Cruise’s last album. But his love for the business hasn’t waned. As gifted in studio as he is on stage, he’s owned and operated The Cave Studios in Mountain View, Calif., for years, recording many Bay Area artists, including two-time Blues Music Award nominee Terrie Odabi and guitarists Steve Freund and Terry Hiatt, just to name a few.

As a performer, Crawdaddy made his debut as a band leader with the release of the well-received Vaporized three years ago and his kids now grown. Firmly entrenched in the blues despite his pop background, he melds jump, West Coast and Chicago techniques into a style that’s modern, pleasing and all his own, his tone fat and delivery smooth and relaxed.

Recorded in his studio, but mixed and mastered by Brett Brown at Renown Sound in Cape Coral, Fla., Slow Cookin’ mixes four originals and six covers into a rich musical stew. He shares vocals with keyboard player Baxter Robertson and harp player Jimmy Dewrance. The unit also includes Greg Jones on bass and a horn section composed of saxophonist Michael Peloquin and trumpet player Marcel Marchetti.

Several top Bay Area artists make guest appearances, including Andersen on guitar for four cuts along with keyboard players Nate Ginsberg, Endre Tarczy and Jim Pugh and guitarist Simon Govan Smith, all for one cut each.

Crawdaddy’s self-penned instrumental “AJ’s Shuffle” kicks off with some impressive swinging, single-note runs. One listen and you’ll be heading for the dance floor. It features a stellar mid-tune solo from Ginsberg, but AJ’s playing is the true star here. Robertson’s at the 88s and handles lead vocal for a slow-and-steady cover of Wynonie Harris’ “Drinkin’ All By Myself” before Dewrance takes command on mike and reeds to deliver his self-penned medium-tempo blues, “Talk To Me Baby,” highlighted by more fine picking.

Four tunes into the disc, AJ makes his first vocal appearance for a take on Lowell Fulson’s “Too Many Drivers At The Wheel,” accented by powerful horn lines and an Andersen mid-tune solo. Robertson’s back in charge for a speedy version of Robert Nighthawk’s “Someday,” with Crawdaddy’s guitar answering vocal riffs before delivering more fine fretwork. Next up, Dewrance is at the mike and Pugh on Hammond B3 for a cover of Jessie Mae Robinson’s “Cold Cold Feeling.”

B.B. King’s “Fine Lookin’ Woman” features AJ in his only other turn at the mike, providing plenty of space for Robertson and the horns to take the instrumental lead throughout. A swamp-flavored take on Jimmy Reed’s “She Don’t Want Me No More” features the keyboard player on vocals before two more originals — Dewrance’s “Hard Luck Lover” and Tarczy’s jazzy “Slow Cookin’” – bring the disc to a close.

Short, sweet, in the pocket and a fine group effort throughout. Available through CDBaby, Slow Cookin’ will keep you satisfied if you like your blues modern with a West Coast feel. And it wouldn’t hurt to play it loud while wearing your dancing shoes, too!

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