Bob Margolin with Mike Sponza Band

Bob Margolin with Mike Sponza Band
Blues Around the World

VizzTone BMMS11

By Karen Nugent
April 2012

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Brookline-born Bob Margolin has been talking up the European blues audiences for years. The enthusiasm of those fans is increasingly apparent – I witnessed it myself this year and last year at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. At certain times, you’d catch more French, Italian, and even Norwegian chat than English. It can give a fresh take on blues.

On this record, Margolin successfully teamed up with Italian blues (younger) brother Mike Sponza, a guitarist who approached Bob while he was on tour in Italy in 2010. They decided to tour Central Europe together in 2011 with Sponza’s band (Mauro Tolot on bass and Moreno Buttinar on drums.)

The band was so well received at the live shows, Sponza arranged for a recording session in Slovenia, of all places, last year and recorded eight of what Margolin describes as the best songs he’s ever written, plus two of Sponza’s originals, and one very sad version of “Love in Vain”, the Robert Johnson chestnut, dedicated to Margolin’s missing dog, Chloe. He is joined on that one by Boston’s Rosy Rosenblatt on harp.

The songs were the crowd pleasers at the live shows, Margolin said in an email, even though I recognized a few: “Crazy ‘Bout You Baby,” “While You’re Down There,” “Hard Feelings,” and “The Door Was Open,” from his previous albums.

Badabing-badaboom! They were re-worked with this Italian band, and most are energized, especially “Hard Feelings” which is slow on the earlier album but has a sort of “Mission Impossible” back beat here.

Among the best are the opener, “”Lost Again” a rocketing-danceable number with Margolin’s wit and humor shining through. Is it really a metaphor for life as a bluesman? And did I mention the bello slide guitar?

Of course you can’t have Margolin without one of his near-perfect versions of a Muddy Waters song (he was with the band for years in the 1970s.) On this CD, we get one of the best, “Rollin’ and Tumblin” done come nella fast Muddy, with some stupendous guitar work. I would say I almost prefer it to Muddy’s versions, but that would just be errato.

The second track, Margolin’s “Blues Lover” is amazing. It could be describing me (minus the young and lovely line of course) or any other female blues fan facing the fact that she is in a minority when it comes to music and her girlfriends. The haunting, sultry song describes having to go a blues show alone, and telling guys to bug off because you are trying to listen to the music. Just fantastic – many of us will relate to it.

“Ice or Fire” is a cool, funky, with a bit of jazz, number that describes a still yearned for lost love. Great licks – no pun intended.

Sponza’s songs “Rather than Being Free” and “It’s Hard to be on the Road,” while more on the country side of the street, are energetic. His vocals are great, as is his guitar playing, which is a bit mellower than Margolin’s.

Of course Margolin’s indescribable slide guitar is peppered throughout the record, and it plays perfectly off Sponza and his band’s style.

No wonder patrons at the shows kept asking if there was a CD available. Now there is.


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