Brandon Santini – The Longshot
American Showplace Music– 2019
11 tracks; 51 minutes
Since relocating to Memphis Brandon Santini’s star has been on the rise and he has received multiple nominations for Blues Music and Blues Blast awards. On his latest CD he travelled to New Jersey with his regular guitarist Timo Arthur to record with a studio band featuring keyboards player John Ginty, acoustic guitarist Jed Potts, drummer Reid Muchow and bassist Chuck Combs; Greg Gumpel plays slide on three tracks, Jimmy Bennett guitar on one, Michael Bram and Doug Hinrichs add percussion to five cuts, Moe Watson backing vocals to three and Samantha Bono handclaps to one. Brandon wrote six songs on his own and collaborated with Timo, Greg, Victor Wainwright, Jeff Jensen and Joel DaSilva on four others; the lone cover is Willie Dixon’s “Evil” on which Brandon does a fair impression of Howling Wolf’s vocals by singing through the harp mike and plays some spirited harp. Indeed, the harp playing throughout is striking, Brandon taking a leaf from the James Cotton handbook – no bad thing!
The result is a uniformly excellent album with diverse influences: opener “Don’t Come Around Here” rocks out superbly with a solid guitar riff and lots of strong keys work; Greg Gumpel’s slide adds a Delta feel to “Beggin’ Baby” and “One More Day” is an acoustic tune with lyrics that take us to church, Brandon sounding quite at home with the gospel feel. Those are just the first three tracks and the quality never drops as Brandon demonstrates his influences from tracks like mid-paced rocker “Heartbreaker” to the acoustic country ballad “Broken Bones” which harks back to mid-period Dylan with its wistful lyrics about being away from home on the road.
“Going Home” is another acoustic-based track but this time played at pace with lots of dramatic harp playing. If you are looking for something heavier try the churning “Back To You” with John Ginty on full-blown Hammond, Timo’s big guitar solo on “My Worried Mind” or the catchy blues-rock of “Somebody’s Gotta Go” which finishes the album with a flourish.
Blending rock with traditional harp styles is not new but Brandon Santini does it as well as anyone on this exciting release which is well worth checking out. Expect it to figure on various ‘Best Of’ lists over the coming months.