Fabrizio Poggi – For You | Album Review

Fabrizio Poggi – For You

Appaloosa Records

10 songs – 34 minutes


Harp player Fabrizio Poggi soared to the heights of the American music scene in partnership with Guy Davis in 2018 for Sonny & Brownie’s Last Train, which was a Grammy finalist, but shifts gears from Piedmont stylings here for a distinctly different follow-up, a gentle treasure that blends classical blues, gospel, folk, jazz and world music while delivering a deep, spiritual message of love and hope for a troubled world.

Based out of Milan, where he fronts the band Chicken Mambo and he’s to be considered the Italian version of Ry Cooder, Poggi is no stranger to American audiences. In addition to appearances on Davis’ three most recent recordings, he’s played everywhere from Carnegie Hall to Mississippi jukes and Texas roadhouses, and penned books on blues history and harp players, too, one of which was illustrated by Robert Crumb.

This is Fabrizio’s 23rd album in a career that’s included recording with Ruthie Foster, W.C. Clark, Lavelle White, Mike Zito, Carolyn Wonderland, Eric Bibb, Ronnie Earl, Bob Margolin, Tex Mex great Flaco Jimenez and others. A sweet tenor, he also plays ukulele and acoustic guitar on this one, which was recorded, arranged and produced by Stefano Spina, who adds keyboards, bass and percussion.

They’re backed by an interesting mix of musicians, including Arsene Duevi (classical guitar and vocals), Enrico Polverari and Giampiero Spina (acoustic and electric guitars), Tito Mangialajo Rantzer (bass), Pee Wee Durante and Stefano Intelisano (keyboards), Tullio Ricci (sax), Luca Calabrese (trumpet) as well as backing vocals from Laura Cerri, Elena Garbelli, Francesca Lucarelli, Veronique Mangini, Massimo Minardi, Marco Mutti, Marilisa Rotondo, Simone Scarsellini, Ilaria Scola, Rossana Torri and Mauro Vantadori.

A set that features complex, multi-layered instrumentation as the lineup suggests, For You is a change of pace for U.S. fans who are familiar with Fabrizio’s skill as a Piedmont-style harp player. A blend of originals and updates of songs from the American songbook, it’s primarily a collection of blues-infused ballads that mirrors the somber feeling most folks are experiencing in the current world and gradually instills hope for brighter future with each passing tune.

A brief, quiet instrumental run featuring Calabrese’s trumpet opens the familiar “Keep on Walkin’” with Poggi unhurriedly delivering an anthem of hope used prominently in the Civil Rights movement. It flows smoothly in to a take on the “If These Wings,” which also opens with a trumpet flourish as it insists that “there is no grave that can hold my body down.”

The mood brightens a little as Fabrizio follows with “Chariot” – a rearrangement of the familiar “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” a tune penned in the 1860s by Wallis Willis, a Choctaw freedman living in Indian Territory in what’s now Oklahoma. And it brightens a little more with the optimistic “Don’t Get Worried,” a lesser-known traditional that opens with an electric guitar run and quickly evolves into a driving blues. The first half of the set concludes with an unhurried, electrified version of “I’m Going There” in which Poggi’s harp runs counterpoint to the melody throughout.

A reinterpretation of Eric Bibb’s love song, “For You,” opens the second half of the disc, which includes all of the new material. It’s a sweet ballad that insists the singer would “walk across a burning desert bearing water to quench your thirst.” The Poggi original, “My Name Is Earth,” is up next, questioning in first person whether the listener cares about Mother Nature, building in intensity aided by a choir before easing back to allow for time to ponder during orchestration infused with jazz and blues.

Optimism sets in with the voices of children that open a take on the traditional “Just Love” and the message that the singer’s going to a land where there’s no depression and free from care, then takes listeners to church with the sweet, bright Fabrizio original “Sweet Jesus.” The disc concludes with another pleaser co-written with Spina. Entitled “It’s Not Too Late” and delivered by Duevi and Poggi in both English and Italian, it’s a timely reminder to keep the faith because there are brighter times ahead.

Sure, this isn’t your typical blues. If you’re looking for the old one-four-five, songs of protest and images of life on the street, look elsewhere. But if you’re interested in a little spiritual healing, this one’s definitely a welcome massage for the soul!

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