Fire Red Moon
BluesWax Rating: 7 out of 10
Another Rocker Turns To The Blues
Although the fifty-eight-year-old Craig Chaquico hasn’t been making much rock noise in recent years, he’s reinvented his career as a smooth-jazz artist and has managed a Grammy nomination, too. As of this release we can now add him to the list of yet another rocker who’s turned to the blues. I’m often suspicious when mainstream performers, like recent releases of Todd Rundgren, Joan Osborne, Cyndi Lauper, and Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall, albums that all made somewhat failed and unauthentic attempts recording blues material. Rundgren’s Robert Johnson tribute was lackluster and unfocused, Osborne’s Bring It On Home (read the Blues Revue magazine CD review) also felt lame, as did Lauper’s Memphis Blues. Lastly, Hucknall’s Tribute to Bobby Blue Bland was pretty flaccid too. By the by, you can find numerous copies of Mick’s tribute CD selling for under two bucks on Amazon, so the proof is in the pudding! So here comes Chaquico’s blues journey, where he has written seven new tunes for this project and covers four. Interesting. From when I first heard Chaquico’s work with the Jefferson Starship, I always thought he was a solid guitarist, but I don’t recall hearing any blues in his solos; that’s until now. Some tracks are performed with various vocalists, others are instrumental.
Fire Red Moon begins brightly with Noah Hunt (always spot-on) vocals on Chaquico’s “Lie To Me.” The band is tight and in a good groove; Chaquico takes a short and heady solo then goes a little over the top in his second more extensive solo that’s someone bluesy and smart. It’s a good opening tune.
Chaquico’s “Devil’s Daughter” is a bawdy tale about getting it on with Satan’s daughter. Rolf Hartley’s vocal is okay (he sounds a bit like Don Henley) and this tune works pretty well, but it’s not blues. “Born Under a Bad Sign” is performed instrumentally and has a bit of a smooth vibe to it. It’s difficult to recognize the often-recorded classic, but there’s some good playing on it, especially the rhythmic and hypnotic guitar work from both Chaquico and Hartley, who also doubles on guitar.
I wasn’t crazy about guest singer Eric E. Golbach’s vocals on Chaquico’s “Bad Woman,” which meanders for over six minutes, even though Chaquico puts down his most stirring solo here, but Golbach never shuts up! Muddy’s “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” is also performed instrumentally and again I’m enjoying the interplay of both guitarists. Chaquico’s rapid-fire antics work well here, and (for the most part) he doesn’t overplay. The title track is also instrumentally performed and co-authored by Chaquico, but it had me scratching my head as to why they chose this tune to be title of the album?
Another Chaquico song, “Little Red Shoes” is a rocking shuffle and finds Hartley vocalizing in high registers that didn’t appeal to me, but the band rocks on in good fashion with another rock-solid guitar solo. Chaquico’s “Blue On Blue” is another instrumental that bears no resemblance to blues music. The instrumental “Fogtown Stroll” by Chaquico swings and lopes along nicely (though it’s a bit contrived) in a way that could be considered bluesy and also offers tasty solos from Craig’s axe. It also has a catchy and unexpected ending. The album closes with Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads.” Again I’m not caring for Hartley’s vocal work, but this often-recorded cover has good energy that mostly emerges from the leaders fretboard work.
It will be interesting to see if Fire Red Moon might attract airplay on classic rock radio formats? That can’t be a bad thing for the blues community, even though I cannot categorize Chaquico’s album as a bona fide blues record. In summary: it’s a pretty good disc, the musicianship is steady and of high quality throughout, and should prove to be a positive experience for the good guys at Blind Pig, especially if they can gain traction outside of the blues bubble.
Bob Putignano is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax, a contributing writer at Blues Revue, and the heart and soul of Sounds of Blue.
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