Toronzo Cannon – The Preacher, The Politician Or The Pimp
Alligator – 2019
12 tracks; 57 minutes
Famously a CTA bus driver by day and a bluesman by night, Toronzo’s lyrics often use material overheard on his bus or his own take on current issues, all presented with soulful vocals and dynamic guitar style. This is Toronzo’s second album for Alligator, recorded in Chicago with Roosevelt Purifoy on keys, Marvin Little on bass and Melvin ‘Pooky Styx’ Carlisle on drums; the album also includes guest appearances by Billy Branch, Joanna Connor and Nora Jean.
Opener “Get Together Or Get Apart” recounts a failed relationship with a choppy rhythm and plenty of strong guitar. The title track finds Toronzo explaining that appearances can be deceptive over some jazzy piano, a gentle wah-wah wash and latin percussion before “The Chicago Way”, an uptempo tune with autobiographical lyrics and, coincidentally the title of his previous album release. Toronzo’s sense of humour surfaces on “Insurance” where he realises that he cannot afford basic medicines, a piano and harp-led blues (plus it is not often that you hear “colonoscopy” in a lyric) and on the hilarious “Stop Me When I’m Lying”, a rumba-based tune with a horn section of Mark Herbert on baritone sax, Chris Shuttleworth on trombone and Joe Clark on trumpet adding to the fun. The rocking duet with Nora Jean “That’s What I Love About You” combines elements of soul and rock and roll while Toronzo extols the “Ordinary Woman” of his dreams and asks to “Let Me Lay My Love On You”, all excellent cuts.
The woman takes the fall for the murder of an abusive partner on the extended slow blues “She Loved Me” whereas it was Toronzo’s character that actually fired the gun. “The Silence Of My Friends” features Roosevelt’s piano and handclaps which add a gospel feel as Toronzo criticises the way that men sometimes act – another outstanding track. “The First 24” is another serious song about one’s final moments, even including the long bleep of a flat-line monitor, as Toronzo breaks out the acoustic. The album closes with “I’m Not Scared”, Toronzo leaving the vocals to a trio of Lynne Jordan, Cedric Chaney, Maria Luz Carball who each recount how they survived abuse; Toronzo’s torrid wah blends with Joanna Connor’s slide to decorate the compelling piece.
The Preacher, The Politician Or The Pimp has really got the lot, good songs with interesting lyrics, a variety of styles, great playing and vocals – it comes highly recommended by this reviewer! Toronzo Cannon is now one of the stars of the Chicago scene. The Chicago Way was one of the top releases of 2016 and Toronzo has done it again here with a disc that should be in the running for blues album of the year.