Breezy Rodio – Sometimes The Blues Got Me
Delmark Records – 2018
17 tracks; 66 minutes
Having served a ten year apprenticeship with Linsey Alexander and after two independent releases Breezy Rodio makes his Delmark debut and it makes a great fit with an excellent album of big band, horn-driven blues, using an ace band of Chicago musicians. Breezy handles lead vocals and guitar with a core band of Sumito ‘Ariyo’ Ariyoshi on piano, Chris Foreman on organ, Light Palone on bass and Lorenzo Francocci on drums; Joe Barr adds B/Vs and a horn section of Ian Letts on tenor sax, Ian ‘The Chief’ McGarrie on tenor, baritone and alto saxes, Art Davis and Constantine Alexander on trumpet. Guests include Billy Branch and Simon Noble on harp, Luca Chiellini replaces Ariyo on piano on one track, Greg Essig and Rick King handle drums on one cut each and Brian Burke and John Lauler play acoustic bass on one track each. Breezy wrote ten of the songs and selects seven covers from the likes of T-Bone Walker, Albert and BB King.
Breezy retains a little of his original accent in his vocals but carries the tunes well as the album opens with the first of three songs associated with BB King, Lee Hazlewood’s “Don’t Look Now, But I’ve Got The Blues”, Breezy playing some fine guitar in BB style with the horns pushing the tune along. Simon Noble’s harp appears on “Change Your Ways”, a driving shuffle with superb piano from Ariyo before Albert King’s “Wrapped Up In Love Again” in which Breezy captures Albert’s string-bending style brilliantly and the band gives superb support. The short but swinging “I Walked Away” is correctly credited to ‘J LeBlanc’, a pseudonym of T-Bone Walker who recorded this one back in the early 50’s and Breezy again nails the guitar style and the horns are terrific. A second visit to BB’s songbook is “Make Me Blue”, one of those typical BB ballads we all know and love but Breezy shows that he can create the same sort of mood on the swinging original “Let Me Tell You What’s Up”, an autobiographical account: “from town to town, from state to state, I sing the blues, I stay out late. I live my life with no regrets, with peace of mind.” The title track is similar, Breezy explaining that not everything about the bluesman’s life is as good as one might imagine: “It may seem kind of funny, as fun as it can be, I play every night and I almost work for free. Well, I’ve got the blues, the blues just won’t let me be, because sometimes I got the blues, sometimes the blues got me”. More BB follows with “I Love You So”, a 1962 release clearly influenced by the pop music of the era but with a beautifully poised solo at its center.
A run of four originals then demonstrates the breadth of Breezy’s talent. “You Don’t Drink Enough” is a bright shuffle that takes the spirit (no pun intended!) of George Thorogood’s “If You Don’t Start Drinking” with a BB King style big band production, complete with Art Davis’ superb trumpet solo; “The Power Of The Blues” is a standout track with a fine horn arrangement and organ solo, subtle guitar and another lyric about how a bluesman will sacrifice everything to play the blues; the instrumental “A Cool Breeze In Hell” is a punning title that is explained when Breezy finds an Albert Collins tone to his guitar and Ariyo’s great boogie piano is the perfect foil to Billy Branch’s harp work on “Doctor From The Hood” in which Breezy offers advice on how best to cure what ails you – not all entirely legal!
“Blues Stay Away From Me” was written by the Delmore Brothers and has been recorded by Merle Haggard and Doc Watson and Breezy’s version brings the country to Chicago. “Fall In British Columbia” is a gentle ballad with some jazzy touches on guitar, probably the cut on the album furthest from the blues but “Not Going To Worry” takes us right back to the blues with Breezy on acoustic guitar and Chris Foreman’s organ bathing the tune in a gospel wash. Things get funky on another Albert Collins-flavored tune “One Of A Kind” before the album closes with “Chicago Is Loaded With The Blues”, written by singing drummer Clifton James and recorded by the Chicago Blues All Stars in 1972. The slow blues features Billy Branch’s harp and pays tribute to the Windy City’s incomparable blues scene, a fitting finale to this excellent album.
Breezy proves to be a competent singer and a versatile guitarist who can play in a range of styles. He pays tribute to some of the greats but also writes some good originals, making a satisfying Delmark debut, well worth investigating.