June 2008

Tom Principato Band - Raising the Roof
Powerhouse POW-125
Format: CD
Released: 2008

by David J. Cantor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Tom Principato is one of a few naturally gifted guitarists who just plain know how to sing via the instrument – Beck, Clapton, Hendrix, Santana, and Vaughn are others who quickly come to mind. And a little ways into this disc, you know why he named it Raising the Roof. It’s not at all cacophonous noise -- the players are excellent, with recording and mixing so good you can always distinguish the instruments (it probably helps that it’s done at band member Tommy Lepson’s studio). But most of the tracks get their power from constant intensity of sound. Principato’s guitar wailing, moaning, sometimes just humming determine how they use that power.

The first two tracks grab the listener with up-tempo rhythms. "Too Damn Funky" might refer to the James Gang’s trademark "Funk 49." The main guitar riff is very similar, but Principato explores much further musically, which might explain the name if there is a conscious reference. The seven-and-a-half-minute tour de force "Mi Solea" travels the greatest distance -- from a slow, relatively quiet beginning through the towering, percussive middle to a delightfully peaceful, delicate ending, with increasingly complex reprises of the strong guitar melody along the way.

Principato’s guitar has been singing professionally for more than 40 years. So have his vocal chords. Together, they’ve put out many albums and won many awards and a much-deserved following. If Principato’s guitar-playing didn’t steal the show, I would say more about his entirely competent vocal interpretations of his own songs and tunes by J.J. Cale and others. If your tastes turn to masterful R&B with strong jazz, funk, and New Orleans accents, don’t let Raising the Roof pass you by.