Every guitarist remembers their first instrument and how they got it and Joseph Cannizzo is no exception: in 1971 his dad (a New York City sanitation worker) brought home a guitar that somebody had tossed out with the trash! Joseph was only ten, but he took to it and by the time he was sixteen he was playing clubs around the tri-state area. By the mid-1980s he was living the dream and traveling around the world with his music.
In 1994 JC put together Crossfire, originally a Stevie Ray Vaughn tribute band, which was a cool project that evolved into him creating his own music. Now based out of the North Miami area, his band’s latest release is When It Comes to the Blues, a righteous set of nine original songs, mostly penned by Cannizzo. He also handles the guitars and vocals and is joined by Tony Calabria on bass and vocals, Bernie Rose on keyboards and vocals, Niles Blaize on harmonica and Guido Marciano behind the drum kit.
The title track comes up first, and it gives the listener an idea of what JC is all about, most importantly who some of his guitar influences are, and I am glad to see that Matt “Guitar” Murphy made the list! This is straight-up blues with a catchy acoustic intro that leads into a slow electric grind featuring fine harp work from Blaize. “Deliza” (with four syllables) is up next with a stomping bass line, JCs whiskey voice and classic organ sounds. JC shows mature musicianship here; though he has great guitar chops he does not feel the need to show off and instead lets the lyrics make the song.
There are a few party-friendly blues tunes on the CD: “Grand Ole Girl,” “One More Time” and “Blues Blues Blues.” The latter has an awesome bassline and one of the catchiest choruses around that features some really fun vocal harmonies. If you need some blues to dance to this is the song you have been looking for!
“Tell Me Why” is the standout track from When It Comes To The Blues. This slow blues rocker is full of reverb-soaked guitar and plaintive harmonica wails and it has a slick format change midway through. JC lets it all hang out on the guitar, and it is easy to tell that he has put in more than his share of practice time in the 40 years since he got that castaway axe. But more importantly, his strong voice is also in the spotlight and this song ends up sounding like something Led Zeppelin would do have done, but without their vocal histrionics.
A close second for my favorite song is “Chosen One” which is a hard southern-tinged blues rocker with some of the heaviest guitar you will find on this album. His six-string is thrust to the forefront by the super-tight backline of Marciano and Calabria, and they leave enough room for JC to do his work properly.
The lyrics are not all good times and love gone bad, though. “American Way” pines for the way things used to be as we all struggle these days to make ends meet. It starts out with a trick kick drum beat and has a heavy dose of funk thanks to the 1970s-issue bass and organ sounds. The background harmonies of special guest Lisa Maviglia is a welcome addition and provides a little more depth. This track provides a cool break near the end of the album and lets the listener know that JC has more than a few things on his mind.
Unfortunately, after only 36 minutes the album comes to an end (much too soon), but I like that he used “I Wonder” as the closing track. This smoky slow blues ballad has the perfect vibe to accompany the tale of a stormy relationship, and Bernie Rose is given a free hand to perform his piano magic. His interplay with JC’s tastefully reserved guitar improv is a sweet way to end things up.
When It Comes To The Blues is a solid album and is likable on many levels. The songs have an accessible contemporary blues sound that is tempered with a pop influence, and the lyrics are easy for us normal folks to relate to. Their songwriting is very good, and I hope JC Crossfire keeps working on new material that they can share with the blues community. I wonder if Joseph still has that old guitar…