This release packs a lot of firepower, featuring three guitarists who were awarded the Albert King Best Guitarist Award over a five year span of the International Blues Challenge. Jonn Del Toro Richardson was honored while competing in 2005 as part of singer Diunna Greenleaf’s band. Two years later Sean Carney was recognized for his picking skills – and two years after that JP Soars received the coveted trophy. One listen to this recording is all it takes to realize that the judges certainly knew what they were doing.
Richardson generates a gorgeous tone on his guitar while playing tasty licks that come straight out of the Texas blues tradition he grew up on. Carney spends plenty of time overseas where his fluid fretwork has generated plenty of attention. They had a hand in writing all but two of the songs included on the disc. As the most recent winner, Soars has developed a strong following through constant touring with his crack band, the Red Hots, in addition to playing a key role along with Damon Fowler and Victor Wainwright in the Southern Hospitality project.
On the first three tracks, each guitarist gets a chance to showcase their talent. Richardson’s voice rings out on the opener, “Tell Me Do You Love Me,” before Carney takes the lead on “Drivin’ Me Wild” over a tight groove set up by Louis Tsamous on drums and Sam Van Fossen on Fender bass. The funky “Lookin’ For My Baby” provides another example of wonderful interplay between the three distinctive guitar styles. Soars returns later on two more cuts. Carney’s spirited vocal on “Come On With It” wraps around two blazing guitar solos. “Peace Of Mind” is a mournful lament from Richardson with an acoustic slide guitar added to the mix as well as Omar Coleman on harmonica.
A musician worthy of wider attention, Coleman lends his compelling voice to “A Man Like Me,” a taut shuffle he co-wrote with Richardson. His original “Slow Down” is bursting at the seams with energy that Richardson & Carney expertly channel through their instruments. The pace slows considerably on “Hold Me” with Coleman yearning for some understanding while the guitars cry out with the same kind of intensity mustered up by Albert King,
Other highlights include a spooky reading of “Chocolate Jesus” with Carney’s measured vocal conveying the devilish humor of the Tom Waits tune. The closing instrumental, “One For J.B.,” switches to lightly swinging tempo with jazz influences, giving the track a West Coast sound that contrasts nicely with the rest of the disc while also providing Richardson and Carney an opportunity to show a different aspect of their guitar styles.
There is plenty to enjoy on this recording. Repeated listens will certainly create interest for Richardson’s upcoming release under his own name. And the same for Coleman, who has a new one coming out on Delmark Records that is already generating some buzz. Blues guitar fans will definitely want to give this one a listen. Anyone who loves the music will find plenty to appreciate from the three guitarists, along with Omar Coleman, making it clear that the future is in good hands.