For several decades, a mainstay of the blues and roots rock scene around Washington, DC, Tom Principato has been known for his guitar playing with his distinctive mix of swing jazz, rockabilly, blues and rock and roll. He has over several decades mesmerized audiences with his fiery guitar, yet he is also more than a simply capable vocalist and he can play rock and roll, unlike some hard rock players out there. He has shared stages with other legendary guitarists such as Danny Gatton and Roy Buchanan, and showed he was their equal. And while his music often shows rock edges, he is capable of conjuring T-Bone mixed with Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson on a straight blues of great originality while adding a dose of Chuck Berry and James Burton when he is in the mood to rock. He plays fluidity with imagination and a searing tone that grabs the listeners attention.
His latest CD on his own Powerhouse label is “A Part of Me,” a release that at least is dedicated to his family as the collage of family photos of a young Tom and his parents makes up the cover. He brings some special guests on this including Sonny Landreth on slide guitar, Chuck Leavell and Brian Auger on keyboards and Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns on drummer. Among DC area musicians assisting Tom here are Tommy Lepson, mostly on backing vocals, and Steve Wolf on bass.
The eight originals by Principato include three instrumental tracks. The opening “Don’t Wanna Do It,” with a simple message about not wanting to but having to let his woman go but she wouldn’t listen, features crying slide guitar from Landreth to support Tom’s gritty vocal. “Sweet Angel” is a celebration of the higher power that helps guide Tom through good and bad times with a lovely melody and some crisp, biting guitar and a very appealing heartfelt vocal with Leavell standing out on the B3 organ. “Part of Me,” is a bluesy ballad with horns as Tom reflects about someone who was part of his life and now is gone with Tommy Lepson on the Hammond here as well as adding a harmony vocal to a real soulful vocal by Principato in addition to some stunning guitar.
Brian Auger is on organ from the instrumental “Down the Road” with its lazy tempo and wonderful guitar from Principato whose fluidity, use of sustain as well as space is noteworthy. One of the numbers that Tom does in performance that is among this writer’s favorites is Sonny Landreth’s “Congo Square.” Tom’s celebration here of New Orleans, Congo Square, the second line and brass bands, “Down in Louisiana,” is a similar exhilarating rock and roll gem that surely will become a staple of his performances although his vocal sounds slightly stilted. Kudos to Steve Wolf on bass and Joe Wells on drums from the crisp groove here. “Back Again & Gone” is a lovely sonic exploration with some swing jazz guitar flavoring while “Stranger’s Eyes,” again with Tommy Lepson on organ is another song about relationships changes as he looks as someone now through “Stranger’s Eyes.” The album ends on an instrumental take of “Stranger’s Eyes,” that cranks things up a notch.
“A Part of Me” is a typically strong album by Tom Principato with a varied collection of material, superbly and imaginatively performed and sung straight from Tom’s heart. For more information on this release and Tom Principato, check out Tom’s website, http://www.tomprincipato.com.
For purposes of FTC regulations, I was sent a review copy by the publicist for this release.