12 songs – 54 minutes
Paolo Mizzau has been a leading light on the Italian blues scene since the 1980s. In addition to playing previously with bands such as Bluesology and The Bluesheads, he has led The Doctor Love Band since 1996. New Crash is the band’s third album, and their first since 2006’s Jump Or Stay.
New Crash opens with “BluesNo”, which neatly combines a “Boom Boom Boom”-esque riff with a IV-I-IV-I-V riff structure over which Mizzau’s supple harmonica twists and soars. Guest artist, Bob Margolin, adds his uniquely powerful old school slide guitar to what is a fine blues song.
However, despite featuring a lot of first class harmonica playing, the album actually stands on the very edge of the blues genre, with other styles and particularly jazz to the fore. “Crash”, for example, with its heavily-tremoloed guitar and jazzy backing, betrays its easy-listening origins, and the shuffle of “Talking About” has at least one foot in the world of big band jazz (albeit without the horns).
Mizzau’s harmonica vies with Matteo Titotto’s guitar as the primary lead instrument on the album, and there is plenty of opportunity for interplay between the two, such as on “Ordinary Man” (which has a superb solo from Titotto) or “A Dog”, where the two instruments play the initial hook in tandem. In addition to Mizzau and Titotto, The Doctor Love Band comprises Simone Serafini on bass and Andrea “Smooth” Pivetta on drums, who together provide a variety of muscular but rhythmically complex backings.
Despite the valuable contributions of the other musicians, however, New Crash appears to be very much Mizzau’s album. In addition to singing and playing harp, he also produced the album and wrote nine of the 12 songs either by himself or together with guitarist Matteo Titotto. The three covers are especially enjoyable for not being obvious choices: composer and band-leader Brain Fahey’s “Crash” (Fahey is perhaps best known for composing “At the Sign of the Swingin’ Cymbal”); Roy Montrell’s “(Everytime I Hear) That Mellow Saxophone” (also previously covered by the likes of The Stray Cats and Imelda May, but not like this) and Fats Waller’s “All That Meat And No Potatoes”.
If there is a weakness in the album, it is probably in Mizzau’s vocals, which come across as hesitant at times, and his heavy accent occasionally distracts from the song itself. The generic “American” accent in modern music is actually fairly neutral from a phonetic perspective (hence why so many non-American singers “lose” their accents when singing), so perhaps it is the hesitancy that is exacerbating the accent.
There is a real enthusiasm and energy to the songs, however, in particular “(Everytime I hear) That Mellow Saxophone”, which is powered by Pivetta’s driving drum patterns. The album benefits throughout from first class musicianship and production and comes in an attractive fold-out packaging.
Worth checking out if your tastes lie to the jazzier side of harmonica blues.