Gary Allegretto – Blues On The Trail
On his fifth release, harmonica ace Gary Allegretto once again explores the confluence between blues and cowboy music. An award-winning Blues In The Schools educator, Allegretto is also a compelling vocalist and songwriter. Additionally, his life journey has taken him deep into the cowboy culture as a forest ranger, rafting guide, and a top-notch forest firefighter. His hard-earned knowledge is reflected in nine original songs, two co-written with guitarist Ian Espinoza, who contributes one original.
The title track opens the disc, Allegretto laying down a plaintive vocal over Espinoza’s acoustic guitar. Paul Eckman on bass and Steve Mugalian on drums set up a gently swinging rhythm underneath the tale of a man on the run from the law, his worried mind getting a measure of comfort from some well-crafted harp licks. “Black Diamond” is a fast paced rendering about a magnificent horse and the man who tamed him, while a second tune, “A Horse Called The Bluesman,” continues spotlighting the special relationship between a cowboy and his mount. At first glance, “Another Mule” would seem to be one more tribute to a four-legged partner. Instead, it is a dark tune about suspicions involving the wrongdoings of he proverbial back door man.
Espinoza switches to a National Reso-phonic guitar on a stirring version of the traditional song, “Jack Of Diamonds”. The interplay between his instrument and Allegretto’s harp make this track of the disc’s highlights. The same guitar is also used on Steve Earle’s “The Firebreak Line,” a proud declaration of the firefighters’ courage and devotion to their team, something that Allegretto knows all too well. “Every Silver Lining” rolls along with a shuffle groove and plenty of dark humor about a man who never seems to catch a break, seemingly with a storm cloud always overhead. Allegretto’s witty nature comes to the fore again on “Whittling Dynamite,” a jaunty look at a male who can’t resit the attraction of women that should wear a warning sign, a man “…with equal parts stupidity and testosterone.”
“When Dutchy Plays The Mouth Harp” is an energetic piece that would fit perfectly around the campfire at the end of a long day of trail riding. Allegretto gets plenty of space to showcase his considerable skill with the harp. The band lays down a steady-rolling groove on “No Place Like Home,” while the leader shares his love for the road, where he can escape life’s travails. That theme is revisited on “Cowboys Got To Free,” a country-tinged acoustic gem with more of Allegretto’s dynamic harmonica blowing. The disc closes with a touching ballad, “Wherever I Roam,” as the singer once again extols the freedom of a life under the stars – another song to play by the campfire late in the evening. Tom Corbett on mandolin adds a wistful touch.
Some readers might hesitate on this recording because of the cowboy references. That would be a huge mistake. Gary Allegretto and his musical friends have crafted a top-notch disc filled with quality material and acoustic performances expertly rendered with plenty of feeling, something that is sorely lacking in many releases. The fact that he looks like life from the cowboy perspective in no way diminishes the soul of the blues at the heart of this project.