Bobby Messano – Lemonade | Album Review

Bobby Messano – Lemonade

Fishhead Records FHD2-800

10 songs – 38 minutes

Veteran road warrior guitarist Bobby Messano teams up with longtime John Fogarty keyboard player Bob Malone and a band of top-flight sessions musicians to deliver this contemporary blues-rock album, which – like the title – delivers a bittersweet view of trying to maintain relationships in a world that’s in constant flux.

This is the ninth CD in the catalog of the New Jersey native in a career that’s included pop, soul, rock and R&B and sessions work backing international talents Gloria Gaynor and Stevie Winwood as well as country star Rodney Atkins.

Messano’s initial foray into the recording studio came on Sire Records in the mid-‘70s with the band Stanky Brown, a group that toured with the Allman Brothers, Boston and New Riders of the Purple Sage, among others. He served as Winwood’s European tour in 1983 before work with Franke & The Knockouts, Joe Lynn Turner, Clarence Clemons and Lou Gramm of Foreigner fame.

He’s been producing solo albums since 1989. His 2011 release, That’s Why I Don’t Sing the Blues, hit the No. 1 spot on the Blues Underground blues-rock charts, and his 2015 issue, Love & Money, was a finalist for the Blues Blast Music Award in the same category. His most recent previous release, Bad Movie, debuted at No. 1 on Sirius/FM’s B.B. King’s Bluesville and charted for ten consecutive months.

Messano handles guitar and vocals throughout with Malone switching off between grand piano and Wurlitzer, Fender Rhodes and Hammond B3 organs as well as clavinet. The lineup also includes Carl Dufrene Jr. of the North Mississippi Allstars on bass and Doug Belote (Eric Clapton) on drums and Roddy Romero (Bobby Rush, Marcia Ball) on squeezebox.

A collection of nine originals and one cover, the overall sound comes across with the feel of a live set. “The Bad Guys” opens the action with a folk/rock feel straight out of the ‘60s and Bobby wondering who’s truly in the right, realizing that he’s equally to blame for the current situation. The blues kick in with “Heal Me,” with Messano looking for salvation but coming to terms with the fact that you sometimes “have to pay the price for bein’ good.”

The title cut, “Lemonade,” is an unhurried slow blues that features Bobby on slide and “turning lemons into lemonade instead of Orange Crush” and trading some tasty eights with Malone on organ. The funk kicks in for the instrumental, “Junk Jam,” and continues in “It’s Just the Money That’s Missing,” a musician’s complaint about constantly needing cash out on the road.

The mood becomes somber for “A Thursday in June,” a stripped-down ballad that describes watching from a distance as a beloved lady friend deals with a relationship that’s crashing and burning. But things heat up quickly and the funk flows full force through “I Don’t Want to Miss You Anymore” and “Black & White,” which comes across with a New Orleans feel and Bo Diddley beat and states: “It’s black and white/There are no colors in between/Even if you’re turning green.”

The final original in the set, “I’m Tired of Writing the Blues,” is a hard-driving, autobiographical number that describes 40 years of Messano paying his dues, before a timely, acoustic take on Steven Stills’ “Find the Cost of Freedom” delivers a strong political statement to bring the disc to a close.

Available through most major retailers, and possibly Bobby Messano’s best album yet.

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