I got dem ole’ Trenton, New Jersey blues again, Mama!,
a review of Joe Zook & Blues Deluxe's Good Mornin' Blues
by Greg "Bluesdog" Szalony
I got dem ole’ Trenton, New Jersey blues again mama! I finally get to cover a blues a band from my home town. Joe Zook (Joe Zuccarello) & Blues DeLuxe have been a mainstay of the East Coast blues scene for decades and with the strong musicality of this release it is no wonder.
A few years back I got the chance to see them open the Saturday show of The Riverfront Blues Festival in Wilmington, Delaware. They are just as solid here as they were live. Joe leads the pack with his authentic blues guitar and husky vocals, as well as writing eight of the ten songs.
Every musician here is top rate. The rhythm section of drummer Jeff Snelson and bass player Bill Holt create a full bottom. Bill’s bass is more upfront than usual for a blues band. Just under the surface his meandering bass lines add to the groove. Jeff provides a full sound on his drums. James Cheadle’s piano playing harkens back to some of the greats of the blues. John Sopko is certainly no slouch as he contributes jazzy Hammond B3 organ on three tracks. Tony Buford adds his harmonica to great affect on three tracks as well.
Did I mention the horn section? Great Googily-Moogily these guys are tighter than a bull’s…um…part that he sits on. Angelo DiBraccio on alto sax, Steve Kaplan on tenor and baritone saxes and Danny Tobias on trumpet are a powerhouse as they play in unison to drive the songs along. Their solos are well crafted works of art. Danny is a local gift to jazz trumpet. I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing is spot on playing numerous times at The 1867 Sanctuary concert series in Ewing Township. I’m not previously familiar with the two other guys, but all three are superb.
“Good Mornin’ Blues” is kicked off with a blazing guitar run to get this chugging number going. The lyrics are an amalgamation of standard blues lines(‘whiskey & wimmin’, ‘blues fall down like rain’) and more modern references(‘ET’ or acid rain). It all works just fine. Joe adds slide guitar over his regular part towards the end of the song and James Cheadle works his magic on the “eighty-eights”. Tony flavors it up with his harmonica skills. A walking bass line underpins the horn-fired “I Love My Baby”.
For my money Joe delivers his tastiest guitar on “Wait And See” as he ponders what happens when he makes a full go round (deadsville). Great horns, piano and organ here as well. Jump blues guitar and the horn section in its’ finest moment as Bill Holt contributes his powerful vocal on this strong rendition of Louis Jordan’s classic “Caldonia”. The members of the horn section along with guitar, harmonica and organ all take solos. The slow paced “Where Did It Go” is about fleeting nature of time. Nice trumpet solo on this one.
Band members chime in on vocals behind Joe on “It Ain’t What You Do”, a lesson in humanity featuring some nifty slide work. The tenuous world situation is the subject of “On My Mind” as North Korea, Russia, Mexico and the old U.S.A. are pondered. Big Franky adds his mandolin and Joe provides electric guitar and acoustic slide. Bill Holt returns for his second vocal spot on the Don Nix composition “Same Old Blues”, a song done by Freddie King and Gatemouth Brown among others. A funky Doobie Brothers-like guitar intro starts off the equally funky “I Got Nothin’ To Say” that features the inimitable James Cheadle on jazzy electric piano to end the proceedings.
From the clean production by Ernie White and Joe Zook to the fine musicianship and vocalists it’s all here ladies and gentlemen. Home town boys that keep on keepin’ on. Slap some Trenton pork roll on the grill and give this puppy a spin!