David Rotundo – So Much Trouble
Dreams We Share – 2020
12 tracks; 57 minutes
David Rotundo is from Canada and became obsessed with the blues after seeing James Cotton play in 1991. Bitten hard by the harmonica bug he traveled round US blues hot spots like Chicago, Memphis, Clarksdale, New Orleans and Austin. Returning to Toronto he played with local bands and had a stint with Jack De Keyser before starting his own band in 2001. He writes his own material and this is his fifth album, but the first for a new label started by another harmonica man, Lee Oskar (of War fame), who also produces.
David handles all lead vocals, harmonica and occasional guitar, alongside a large number of musicians. The core band is Ron Weinstein on organ, Milky Burgess on guitar, Dean Schmidt on bass and Andrew Cloutier on drums; Darian Asplund adds sax to six tracks, Phillip Peterson cello to two, Ed Weber piano to two and guitarists Skylar Mehal and Desmond Brown appear on one track each. Additional percussionists appear on five tracks – Joseph Ravi Albright (tabla), Denali Williams (assorted percussion), Thor Dietrichson and Ernesto Pedianco (congas). A host of backing vocalists are also involved: David himself, Lee Oskar, Annie Jantzer, Erik Yager, Chris Weortink, Nick Foster, Timothy Hill, Julia Vega, Brian Madsen and Ginger Woo.
The album opens with two real winners: “She’s Dynamite” is a rocking boogie with piano, guitar and sax beefing up the chorus, harp and organ taking the solos as David issues a ‘beware’ notice about the femme fatale he has met; David’s gravelly vocals work very well on “I Must Be Crazy”, a slower tune that brings Otis Rush to mind, particularly in the rhythm guitar work. “Funky Side Of Town” lives up to its title with plenty of wah-wah washes, the cello and backing vocals offsetting the chorus.
The title track “So Much Trouble” lyrically points fingers at how humanity is creating its own problems with disregard for the environment, as well as how we behave to each other. With sax, twin guitars and choral vocals, this is a big production number that gets its message across well, David’s central solo beautifully set over keyboard and guitar flourishes. Principal backing vocalist Annie Jantzer features on “Too Blue” as David tries to drink away his troubles, a theme that also features on “Drinking Overtime”, a rocking shuffle with amusing lyrics, sax and piano driving the rhythm and Ron’s organ swirling away behind David’s expressive harp.
Darian’s sultry sax is a key component on the moody “That Thing Called Love” as we return to matters of the heart before David ups the tempo again with the staccato rhythms of “Trying To Find It”, an enigmatic song about searching for eternal truths. “Foolish Love” is a gentle piano-led ballad with no drums or harmonica but does rather expose David’s vocal limitations and was the track that worked least well for this reviewer.
“Hard Times Coming” is one of three tracks on which David plays guitar. It’s a slow Delta blues with resonator guitar, bass and harp and lyrics typical of the style as David searches for peace of mind in difficult times. The other tracks on which he plays guitar appear at the end of the album: “Long Road” has an acoustic base with both David and Milky on guitars, with tabla, congas and cello adding an Eastern feel, choral backing vocals underlining a message of hope for our future; David closes the album with a solo reading of the traditional “Trouble In Mind”, lonesome harp accentuating the familiar lyrics of overcoming life’s tough times.
David Rotundo offers us a good demonstration of his talents as writer, singer and harmonica player across the varied palette of this enjoyable album.