Jesus On a Tortilla – What is Wrong With You?
15 songs, 58 minutes
Seeing the image of Jesus on a tortilla and/or praying to said image is a unique type of Americana (meaning both North and South America) mystical Christianity that requires a deep seated leap of faith. It is therefore apt that Italian Blues band Jesus On a Tortilla would name themselves thusly. The type of recklessly committed leap of faith required for a bunch of young people to play the stone cold unremittingly old school Blues this band of young people plays requires that same type of devotional single mindedness of the unleavened gluten free apostle. On their second album What’s Wrong With You?, Tortilla continues their old-fashioned analog sounding live-to-tape ways throwing themselves into a sea of dusty classic covers and a bunch of originals written in a time machine from 1956.
Jesus On a Tortilla is Lorenzo “Mumbles” Albai on vocals and harp, Kevin “Blind Lemon” Clementi and Andrea “Youngblood” Mandelli alternating guitar work, Matteo “Shuffle” Ferrario on drums and Massimiliano “Ximi” Chiara on upright bass. This band is so enamored of Blues mythology even their nicknames are devotional. Covers from Jimmy Rogers, Elmore James, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Ike Turner, J.B. Lenoir and more are read clean and in line with the originals reinforcing the band’s aesthetic. Highlights include the slow burn of Lou Donaldson’s “Whiskey Drinking Woman” featuring plaintive guitar work from Mandelli. Mandelli’s slide work on the Elmore James classic “Person to Person” never steps outside of the James cannon of licks while the hopping rhythm section keeps the band flowing.
What is most interesting on this record are the six originals. “Tell Me Babe” and “I’m A Really Good Lover” twist classic Blues riffs and lyrical motifs over superb modernity informed drumming, the former being a funk shuffle and the later being a stripped down bossa. Live performances of two more original compositions at the end of the disc offer a glimpse into the youthful fire and playful interplay of this band. “Street Diary” is a plodding 1-2 shuffle distinguished by Blind Lemon Clementi’s ragged slide work inter-playing with Mumbles’ forceful harp blowing. The closer “Tribute to Muddy Waters” is a direct lift of Slim Harpo’s “Hip Shake” with more of a hopped up John Lee Hooker boogie than Muddy’s devastatingly syncopated electrified country invention. Again this track shows off these guys’ chops and interplay.
Jesus On A Tortilla are a fun band. They are part of a legion of young people looking to the past for artistic guidance and inspiration. In the early ‘aughts these people were called hipsters. Instead of artisanal pickles, irreverent tattoos and ubiquitous meticulously groomed, but still seemingly unkempt, facial hair, these young people dress in fancy suits (they are Italian after all) and play music popular in the 40’s and 50’s. It is important for artists so locked in to an aesthetic to create for themselves within it. Jesus On A Tortilla is there. It will be interesting to hear what they do next.