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Rob Paparozzi - Etruscan Soul

Honeydrippers Records

15 songs; 70:18 minutes; Library Quality

Styles: Harmonica led Blues, Jazz, Soul, Rock, R&B

Who says lightning never strikes twice in the same place? For only the second time in the two years we have been doing our radio show on WKCC, my partner Shuffle Shoes actually likes a newly released CD. Our show consists mainly of his vast archived golden nuggets with me alternately playing new releases. Rob Paparozzi’s “Etruscan Soul,” however, has earned Shuffle Shoes’ complete and unabridged approval.

His objections to the newest material usually center around guitar wanking and mediocre vocals. Honestly, he has a point: a rare few are truly great singers; most are average at best. Paparozzi is not a B.B. King or Ray Charles, but his first rate vocals blend verve and empathy with depth and clarity. Paparozzi credits his soulful vocal timbre to his family’s genetic heritage dating back to ancient Eturia in west-central Italy. Thus, we have the title “Etruscan Soul.” Considering that he has learned a sense of humor and playfulness in his presentations, one can understand how, in 2005, Paparozzi became the replacement for David Clayton Thomas in the legendary “Blood, Sweat & Tears.”

And, there is more, Rob has incredible Blues and chromatic harmonica playing skills. Constantly in demand for session work, the New Jersey-based front man, singer, and harp player has been a blues performer since 1967. Paparozzi’s own band, The Hudson River Rats, are a favorite tri-state act. From 2000 – 2007, Rob toured the world with the “Original Blues Brothers Band,” earning the admiration of guitar legend Steve Cropper.

Not strictly a Blues musician, Rob plays a versatile, wide range of music reflected in the long and diverse list of major artists with whom he has worked, including B.B. King, Dr. John, Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Carole King, Roberta Flack, Cyndi Lauper, and Randy Newman.

With that list, it is surprising that, at age 56, this is his debut album. Paparozzi selected fifteen favorite songs to rearrange and cover including, Elton John’s and Bernie Taupin’s “Border Song (Holy Moses),” Randy Newman’s “I Think It's Going To Rain Today,” and Sting’s “She's Too Good For Me.”

The CD features many creative moments, such as Steely Dan’s “Peg” merged with the standard “Peg O' My Heart.” Phoebe Snow sings on Delbert McClinton’s “Monkey Around,” and guitarist Leo Nocentelli of the Meters guests on Cream’s “Strange Brew” while Bernard “Pretty” Purdie handles most of the drumming. More name guests abound.

The set opening instrumental, The Beatles’ “Ticket To Ride,” is Rob’s “Thank you” to John Lennon for his life changing inspiration in playing a “tiny instrument, the harmonica.” While there’s no harp in the original, of course, Rob is outstanding here, fronting a full band.

My other favorites, among NO clunkers: Keb’ Mo’s “Keep It Simple” with Rob on vocals and Hugh McCracken on Dobro, Rob’s wonderful solo-on-piano and voice channeling of Randy Newman’s “I Think It's Going To Rain Today,” Rob singing “In the Heat of the Night” his way, and a fun instrumental version of Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With” featuring John Korba (the album producer) on acoustic piano.

When a veteran Blues fan who has had more than one Blues radio show tells you that it’s good, what more do you need to know? Take it from Shuffle Shoes and Skyy Dobro, this CD is a major winner!

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Thursdays from 7 - 8 pm and Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL

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