Emanuel Casablanca – Blood on My Hands | Album Review

Emanuel Casablanca – Blood on My Hands

Kings County Blues KCB-0001


16 songs – 60 minutes

A Brooklyn-born multi-instrumentalist, Emanuel Casablanca has toured the world as vocalist and/or lead guitarist for several major players across the music spectrum but debuts as a front man with this highly autobiographical, hourlong set. It’s a star-studded roller coaster of a ride that delivers a powder keg of blues-drenched emotion.

The front man for the New York City soul/funk/rock band VICE, Casablanca has joined forces in the past with Daxx Nielsen of Cheap Trick, Bernard Fowler who’s been proving backing vocals for the Rolling Stones for 30 years and bassist Doug Wimbush of Living Colour. And world-class talent from both the blues and rock worlds are present for this coming-out party, too.

“I made it a point with this album to try to explore the essence of an imperfect past,” Emanuel notes on his website. “There are things that I’ve done that I’ve tried to repent for. And in exorcising those demons, I’ve made an attempt to…reveal my true self despite all the flaws and imperfections.”

Chockful of deep beats and raw emotion, the disc features a cross-section of major guitar talent, including bluesmen Eric Gales, Albert Castiglia and Felix Slim who doubles on harp. Also featured are metal/hard rock god Paul Gilbert and Briton Paul Howells of the alt rock group Fizzy Blood who co-produced, engineered and mastered the effort at The SubCar Studio in Long Island City, N.Y.

They’re joined by two other major blues talents — two-time BMA horn player of the year Jimmy Carpenter and Florida-based vocalist Kat Riggins – and a rhythm section composed of Julian Chobot and Maximillian Sebastian (bass), Ben Zweig, Teddy Sideropolous, Theodore Augustine and Poyraz Aldemir (drums) and Trinidadian percussionist Sanga of The Valley.

Fair warning: Fifteen of the 16 cuts here are originals, and almost all of them – like the CD title – bear sanguine references. But fear not. The lyrical content is full of deep, introspective imagery that provides counterpoint to what might appear on the surface to be a bloody mess and something to be avoided.

“Afraid of Blood,” which opens, kicks off with the sound of an explosion that’s followed by intense guitar flourishes and unsettling words that find Casablanca looking at his reflection and realizing that the person he fears most is himself. It’s a highly experimental composition that sets the tone for the 56 minutes of disquieting grooves that follow.

Next up, “In Blood” is a ballad that features Gilbert delivering straight-ahead blues runs that build in intensity as Emanuel finds himself caught in a downpour and says he gave his heart to his lady but she took his blood. Gales comes on board for “Blood on My Hands,” the admission of guilt of a killer awaiting execution, before Riggins and Sanga join forces for “Like a Pulse,” a sweet love song with acoustic overtones that describes the lady as “my rhythm…my heartbeat…like a pulse.”

The mood darkens for “Bloodshot Eyes” with Castiglia laying down two-four runs that emulate the beating of a heart as Casablanca bemoans living a life full of broken dreams, backstabbing and sleepless nights before Slim delivers sweet harp runs to open “Nashville,” which recounts playing at a honkytonk and getting waylaid by a couple of ladies. The rocker, “Sunday Talks,” expresses that something’s missing in the conversation before the uptempo “Thicker Than Blood” brightens the mood as it describes awareness that Emanuel will never be fooled by his woman no matter what she does.

The sole cover in the set, Robert Nighthawk’s “Anna Lee,” gives Carpenter space to shine before Casablanca teams with Brother Dave on the rapid-fire “Testify,” which vows that no woman will be able to break his heart again and yields to “Devil’s Blood,” which states that if you climb into bed with Satan, you’ll never win, and “Blood Money,” which finds the singer so desperate for cash that he’s contemplating a robbery.

Four more numbers — “Fantasies,” a reflection delivered from the end of life, “My Nerves,” a plea for help for a cure for hopelessness, “Shaky Tables,” the fight to bounce back from the brink, and “Rottenpockets,” the description of being pursued by the police – bring the disc to a close.

Despite the dark theme that flows throughout, Blood on My Hands has a lot to offer if your tastes run toward cutting-edge, 21st Century blues. Emanuel Casablanca is a talent. Here’s hoping that his future is brighter than his past!

Please follow and like us: