Blu Ja Vu
Quarto Valley Records Publicity: Blind Raccoon
By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © September 2023
Every once in a while, I’ll read something on the liner notes or the One Sheet that accompanies an album, and I feel like I should share it as stated. So here are a few lines from Jim White, a former writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette who now writes for Blues Roadhouse:”When you have a musical career as a singer and drummer that includes writing over 1000 songs, producing 100 albums, and working with everyone from Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley to Buddy Guy – two things come to mind. You must be exceptionally talented. You must be Tom Hambridge.” BTW, he’s also worked with: Mick Jagger, Gregg Allman, B.B. King, Carlos Santana, Van Morrison, Keith Urban, Johnny Winter (whom you’ll hear more about later), and on, and on, and on.
If the saying about time flying being associated with having fun holds water, then I must be having a ball, because I cannot believe it has been over five years since I reviewed The NOLA Sessions, Tom’s last release.
Just like that last release, Tom’s ninth – Blu Ja Vu – also features thirteen original tracks and gang of great musicians. Joining Tom – on drums, percussion and vocals – are: Buddy Guy, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, and Joe Bonamassa on guitar and vocals; Josh Smith on guitar; James Cotton on harmonica; Chuck Leavell, Kevin McKendree and Jon Coleman on keyboards; Glenn Worf and Tommy MacDonald on bass; Rob McNelley on lead and rhythm guitars; Bob Britt on guitars; and Emil Justin on background vocals.
What better way could there be to kick things off than with a song that features your long-time good friend, band mate and client? Absolutely none! That’s exactly why Blu Ja Vu opens with the great Buddy Guy joining Tom on a song titled “Ain’t It Just Like Love”. The duet features Tom and Buddy taking turns sharing barbs that relate to the pros and cons of love. Musically, it goes without saying – as will the rest of the tracks, as well – that the rhythm Tom and Tommy (bass) are banging out is nothing short of thunderous; and where there’s Buddy there’s always gritty guitar licks and they don’t get much grittier than what he’s laying down right here. Additionally, as he was on that NOLA Sessions release, Kevin McKendree is all over the Barrelhouse, honky-tonk piano runs. Fabulous opening track.
Other than changing the guitarist from Buddy to Joe Bonamassa – therefore making the runs a bit edgier, not much changes on the very next track titled “That’s My Home”. With the lyrics centering around the subject of life on the road as a traveling musician – or as they say “our address keeps on changing”, Tom’s point of view is that where he lays down his suitcase is his home, while Joe’s is wherever he lays down his guitar is his home.
The third of three vocal duets, has Tom hooking up with a young man who is surely doing his part to keep the blues alive, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. Lyrically, the guys take their turns making points as to why the “Blues Don’t Care”. Just a few are:
“It makes no difference if you’re wrong or right
You can try to run but there’s no escape,
it’s the middle finger on the hand of fate
You can buy insurance to ease your mind,
lock up your woman and hide your wine”
none of which will matter because
“the blues is gonna get you some way, somehow,
the blues don’t care and the blues don’t play fair”.
With “Kingfish” keeping it real, this is the most traditional of the ‘Guitar Guru’ tracks.
So when Tom was going over the pre-recording instructions for “Brother John Boogie”, it wouldn’t shock me if he told the guys to give this one all they’ve got and then give it some more. It’s a raucous instrumental with everyone in full throttle mode, with the late and great James Cotton providing the runaway train vibe on his smokin’ chromatic harp blowing.
This one should cause you to want do one of two things: get up and start dancing or packing a bag and hitting the road – and with many of the places and things Tom addresses on “Get Out Of Town”, the second of those choices may be hard to resist. This is ‘Route Sixty-Six’ taken up several notches – lyrically, vocally and musically.
“Smarter Than I Was” is about learning something the hard way. It’s a gloomy tale about a woman who took Tom’s soul to a darker side. As he tells it, “Halfway there, I got wise… I may not look it but I’m smarter than I was.” The intense rhythm and percussion create a strong supernatural vibe with stunningly perfect guitar accompaniments by former Ft. Lauderdale homie, Josh Smith.
As I approach seventy-five years of age, I’ve lived through my share of eras that were the cause for many protest songs to be written, but “Johnny Winter” is by far the most unique of these types of songs. What’s that you say, Pete? A song titled Johnny Winter is a protest song? “Yep, it sure is!” On this song, Tom is downright pissed off as to why Johnny Winter is not in the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame”. As a matter of fact, on a trip to Cleveland, Tom actually wanted to know who was in charge, because he actually wanted to kick this person’s… I mean give this person a piece of his mind. Also, with some very Johnny like guitar licks, Rob McNelley pays homage to him in his own special way. It’s a fun and very true song.
Other tracks on this killer project include: “Wear You Out”; “Sick With Love”; “Automatic”; “Symptoms Of Love”; “Meet Me In Chicago”; and “End Of the Line”.
On a side note, should you be submitting a contemporary blues release to any of the various award associations, this is the one to beat!
To find out more about Tom Hambridge just go to – www.tomhambridge.com. Remember, wherever you go and whomever you contact, please let them know The Blewzzman sent you.
“The Blues Is My Passion And Therapy”
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 “Keeping The Blues Alive” Award Recipient