Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tom Principato - Robert Johnson Told Me So


The blues are a cruel mistress.  Every guitarist has gone to bed with her and the whole world gets to judge who did her better.  The blues are not just one style, at least not anymore.  Yet, much of today's music can trace its origin to the blues.  She is a mother who gives birth to her own lovers who also procreate to assure her own continued survival.

When you have seduced three Kings (B.B., Albert and Freddie), Gods (Jimi, Stevie Ray, Jeff, Buddy), skid row bums (Little Willie, Mississippi Fred), preachers (Rev. Heat), Phd's (Dr. John), and a host of women (Billie, Dinah, Janis) you would think it would become harder and harder to be satisfied.  Not so.  Plenty get to listen and appreciate her.  For musicians she acts as the gatekeeper.  You can play with her, even write songs to her.  However, unless you do her really right, you ain't going nowhere and nobody is going to listen to you.  But, how do you know when you, as a musician, are doing her right?  You know because, as Tom Principato writes, (sings, plays, and names his new album) Robert Johnson Told Me So.

Tom Principato long ago gave his soul to the blues and nowhere does he prove it with such passion as here.  Principato blasts blues in many forms - B.B.'s Chicago-style, Hank's Country-style, even a touch of Reggae.  Let's just say Principato and the blues are intimate.  On Robert Johnson Told Me So he makes love to the blues and we all get to hear it.  

It all started in the late-1970's in the Washington, D.C. area for this blues guitar singer songwriter.  For over 40 years he has paid his dues.  He even became a regional blues club success.  Robert Johnson Told Me So is the synthesis of those 40 years of trying to please his mistress and with this effort she definitely seems satisfied.  By the end of the eight track CD, she is finishing a cigarette and asking Tom for a repeat performance.

The blues guitar chops on display are second to none.  The arrangements are impeccable.  The lyrics are a step above the usual blues drivel.  Principato brings the emotion only someone who has had the blues and knows them first hand can ever properly express.

No question about it.  Tom Principato now lives with the blues.  They are married, fused at the hip and Tom wants everyone to know and listen. Just remember Tom, by nature, the blues are not monogamous.  As you wrote, in "Knockin' On The Door",

Don't let your dreams fade away,
There's other doors - other days,
You've come too far to turn back now,
Just keep on - you'll make it somehow . . .

- Old School



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