John D’Amato – Blood On The Strings
10 songs – 37 minutes
Blood On The Strings is John D’Amato’s third release and picks up where his previous release, 2016’s Born Blue: The Sun Sessions, left off, featuring a lot of raucous guitar and a range of blues-rock songs all written or co-written by D’Amato.
D’Amato provides lead vocals and guitars and he is joined by a variety of different musicians on the album, with Carl Brenner on drums, Hottube Willie Scruggs and John Green on bass Dan Nadassi and Geno Haffner on keyboards, and his wife, Lauren D’Amato on vocals. Their support is exemplary, in particular Lauren D’Amato who is blessed with an outstanding voice and delivery. Unfortunately, her expertise brings into sharp contrast the limitations of her husband’s voice, which is more of an acquired taste.
The opening track, “Working Girl” lays out the foundation for the rest of the album. The band lays down a tasty shuffle over which D’Amato lays down some rapid-fire guitar licks. The lyrics, paying homage to all women who work hard for their families are somewhat perfunctory, and there is almost a sense that the song is just a precursor for the guitar solo, rather than the guitar playing being in service to the song.
The funky “Gal In Memphis” features Lauren D’Amato’s first appearance (she duets with her husband on this track and “What Happened” and takes the lead vocals on “Break Your Heart” and “Fight For Me”) and has something of a mid-1980s-Alligator Records Chicago blues edge to it.
Make no mistake about it, D’Amato is fine guitarist, with a sharp, over-driven, note-heavy style that recalls Johnny Winter, Joe Louis Walker and even a note or two of Roy Buchanan at times on the update “Break Your Heart”, while the minor key “Rich Man” gives D’Amato ample opportunity to stretch out on the strings. The ZZ Top-esque boogie of the title track tells the autobiographical story of how D’Amato learned blues guitar and contains another frenzied solo. Not unlike Roy Buchanan, however, D’Amato’s most emotionally appealing playing is when he exercises taut restraint – the Curtis Mayfield-reminiscent “Walk Away” features some lovely guitar work.
Recorded at The Song Closet in Burns, TN, Blood On The Strings is excellently engineered, mixed and mastered by Jim Schacher. The tracks are definitely on the blues side of the blues-rock spectrum, but they also rely too heavily on D’Amato’s guitar. No doubt these songs work extremely well in a live setting. On record, however, they would benefit from Lauren D’Amato taking more of the vocal duties (although John’s best vocal performance may be in the closing track, the rocking “Rollin’”), while several of the lyrics verge towards prosaic, which dampens the emotional impact of the song.
There is a lot to enjoy on Blood On The Strings, but there is also a sense that D’Amato hasn’t quite hit his straps musically. Definitely one to watch.