Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers Blues Quartet – Soul Monster

January 01, 1970

(Delta Groove Music)


Rod Piazza is an old-school blues blaster in the Little
Walter vein. Mentored by the late, great George “Harmonica” Smith and
with better than 40 years of roadwork helping to shape his sound, Piazza is a
sturdy, reliable blues music institution. He seldom innovates, though he often
surprises, and he never fails to entertain. Backed by the rock solid Mighty
Flyers Blues Quartet – four times Blues Music Award “Band of the
Year” recipients – and his wife Miss Honey, honored herself with the
“Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year” award by the Blues
Foundation in 2008, Piazza and crew are more than capable of knocking down
their gritty, soulful version of West Coast blues. 


Soul Monster is
Rod Piazza’s third album for the freewheelin’ Delta Groove label, which is
making quite a name for itself as a relative newcomer among typically hidebound
blues recordcos, and it’s Piazza’s 24th album overall – no mean feat in these
days of readily disposable pop music trends. Soul Monster perfectly illustrates part of the reason for Piazza’s
amazing longevity, unusual even in a genre that supports its oldsters, by delivering
the sort of traditional blues romps and energetic R&B stomps that hardcore
blues fans demand from their artists.


But it’s the element of surprise that lurks around the
darkened corners of Soul Monster that
has kept Piazza’s gig fresh, original and, well, exciting all these years. For
every Chicago-styled rave-up like the band’s cover of Big Bill Broonzy’s
“Key To The Highway,” replete with Miss Honey’s spirited honky-tonk
key-bashing, Piazza’s white-hot flares of harp, and guitarist Henry Carvajal’s
serpentine guitar threads, you’ll find a tune like the instrumental “Soul
Monster.” With a slightly psychedelic guitar intro, the song drops into a
funky groove that’s equal parts George Clinton and Johnny “Guitar”
Watson. With Piazza’s flash-bang harmonica strutting down the sidewalk, the
band pimps out the soundtrack with its brilliant, rhythmic riffing.


In a nutshell, that seems to be Piazza’s blueprint for Soul Monster – mix up a bunch of trad-sounding
blues tunes with a few attempts at more experimental fare – something from
‘Column A’ and something from ‘Column B,’ as it were. The band’s cover of Jimmy
Rogers’ shuffling “Can’t Stand To See You Go,” which puts the rhythm
in “rhythm and blues,” is afforded West Side atmospherics with
rolling 88s, trembling fretwork, soulful vocals, and various harp tones.
Piazza’s original “Tell Me About It Sam” is a talking blues with the
harp master rapping eloquent over Carvajal’s piercing notes, the hilarious
intro telling a true story of blues great Sam Myers while the song itself is a
showcase for Piazza’s immense harmonica skills. A loving cover of former friend
and mentor George “Harmonica” Smith’s “Sunbird” is
delivered as a raw, blistering houserocker with deliberately antique sound and an
old-school vibe.


Soul Monster is a
respectable, solid effort from one of blues music’s esteemed veterans. Other
bluesmen-and-women may get more press, and some may make a larger, hype-driven
splash in the small pond that is the blues, but long after you’ve forgotten
those guys and gals, you’ll be pulling Rod Piazza’s CDs off the shelf and
slapping them on the box…you’re always guaranteed a good time.


Standout Tracks: “Soul Monster,” “Tell Me About It Sam,” “Can’t Stand




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