Tony Campanella – Taking It To The Street | Album Review

Tony Campanella – Taking It To The Street

Gulf Coast Records – 2019

11 tracks; 49 minutes

Tony Campanella has been playing guitar in St Louis for years but this is his first national CD release. Having put raising a family before his music now is the time for Tony to step out from his home base and establish himself on a wider front, aided and abetted by an old St Louis friend, Mike Zito. When Mike and business partner Guy Hale set up Gulf Coast Records Tony was exactly the sort of act they were looking for – talented but not widely known.

Recorded at Mike’s Texas studio the disc features a blend of four of Tony’s originals, three from Mike and four covers. The band is Tony on vocals and lead guitar, Mike on rhythm and slide, Lewis Stephens on keys, Terry Dry on bass and Matt Johnson on drums – in other words Tony is fronting Mike’s regular touring band.

The album opens with Mike’s title track, a torrid piece of blues-rock with Tony and Mike playing in tandem, some echoey distortion on Tony’s vocal as he sings of his journey from a kid learning to play to the present as he prepares to ‘take it to the street’. We then get a run of three originals: “Pack It Up” is a bright shuffle with lyrics about a relationship going wrong; “One Foot In The Blues” is one of the strongest cuts on the album as Tony plays a slow blues beautifully over Lewis’ warm keyboards; there is some gentle funk to “You Don’t Know” as Tony soars in his solo.

The four covers then appear together, starting with a rocked up version of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”, the rhythm section laying down a dirty groove which Tony is more than happy to follow with his core riff. “Finger On The Trigger” is a lesser-known Albert King tune which seems to be a relative of “The Hunter” and Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson’s theme tune “Mr Cleanhead” is handled respectfully with Lewis’ piano featured alongside some searing lead work and a commanding vocal from Tony. A second visit to the SBW songbook with a pacy “Checking On My Baby” concludes the covers.

We then get two more Zito songs, both co-writes with Guy Hale: Mike’s eerie slide and Tony’s swampy tones fit the brooding “Texas Chainsaw” very well as Tony takes those who doubted his talents to task; the bouncy rocker “My Motor’s Running” is a good contrast with more solid piano and bright guitar before the album concludes with Tony’s slow blues “Those Are The Times”. The tune recalls “Need Your Love So Bad” (Little Willie John) but is beautifully played by the whole band, delivering a very satisfying end to the album.

A mix of blues and blues-rock, Tony Campanella has delivered a debut which should appeal to a wide audience.

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