It has been eleven years since Brandon Santini made the permanent move to Memphis to further his career. The singer and harp player has toured constantly, honing his talents and putting together a band that is as sharp as the crease on Rick Estrin’s pants. The move has paid off in recent years with several Blues Blast and Blues Music award nominations, giving Santini a much higher level of visibility throughout the blues community.
Last summer the band headed north for an engagement at the le Petit Imperial, a concert venue in Quebec City. It is obvious from the start that the band is loaded for bear. Nick Hern on bass and Chad Wirl on drums lay down a mean shuffle on “One More Mile” while guitarist Timo Arthur lays down some tantalizing rhythmic phrases. The leader unleashes his deep, expressive voice before attempting to blow out the reed in his harp with two edgy solos. Santini co-wrote “This Time Another Year” with Charlie Musselwhite, which means there is plenty of dirty harp before they break things down to give Arthur an opportunity for some delicate guitar interplay.
Santini is right at home on a laidback take of “Elevate Me Mama” until his wailing harp kicks things into another gear. “Evil Woman” keeps things down in the alley and Arthur finally gets to run through his arsenal of guitar chops. He sets the pace as the band races through “Have A Good Time” before finishing off the first part of the program with a swinging rendition of “Help Me With The Blues”.
The second set is more of the same as Santini hits the stage blowing with gale-force intensity on the classic “Got Love If You Want It,” which glides into “No Matter What I Do,” another romping shuffle complete with a vocal dripping with soul. “What You Doing To Me” provides a needed respite as the band slips into a country blues groove, the ideal setting for one of Santini’s best vocal performances.
“My Backscratcher” features more of the leader’s fat harp tone and another blistering solo from Arthur. The frantic pace of “I Wanna Boogie With You” undoubtedly got the audience out of their seats, especially when Santini summons up the intensity of one of his harp mentors, James Cotton. Most performers would have stopped on that high note. But Santini and his cohorts tear through one final number, “Come On Everybody,” just to make sure that their fans got their money’s worth of high-octane blues.
Throughout this masterful performance, Brandon Santini displays the sheer artistic command of an artist in complete control. His thick-as-molasses vocals and muscular harp playing combined with a band that backs his every move make this package a real gem that stands solidly in the blues tradition. Recordings like this are hard to come by, so make sure you don’t miss out on a disc that is sure to lead to a few more award nominations for Mr. Santini.