BluesWax Rating: 2 out of 10
In a magnanimous gesture, Italian blues harmonica man Fabrizio Poggi has donated this album to the Blues Foundation as a fundraiser; it is available through Poggi’s Web site. Poggi’s generosity is laudable, the goal is worthy, and there are several aspects of this CD to be valued. For aspiring harmonica novices particularly, the liner notes are useful in delineating not only the key of each song but also the type of harp being played and the position in which it is played. There are fourteen songs and Poggi’s harmonica stylings are front and center in each, allowing for study and emulation.
Now for the caveat. Poggi is a praised harpman who has purveyed many albums over the last two decades with his band, Chicken Mambo, and has played and recorded with many other blues notables. However, this outing is undistinguished. Its theme is great harmonica players of the past, presumably ones who have “inspired and guided” Poggi (according to the blurb on his Web site). Each song is dedicated to one of those harpmen, and named after his town of origin or fame.
However, inspiration and animation are lacking throughout. Every song is mid-tempo, with one up-tempo exception (ironically, the song devoted to Sonny Terry, who would probably have been baffled by the tune dedicated to him!). Despite nods to figures as diverse as Terry, Slim Harpo, and Paul Butterfield, there is virtually no variation or nuance in Poggi’s playing. He incessantly deploys the same formula: multiply repeated riffs, almost ad nauseum, followed by a few arpeggios. “New Orleans, LA,” dedicated to Little Walter, sounds almost identical to “Holly Springs, MS,” dedicated to Peg Leg Sam. Really?
There is scarcely any variation in dynamics. Enrico Polverari on guitar delivers some nice fill, but is given no chance to stretch out. The rhythm section is mundane. In fact, despite the citation that two percussionists were involved, I would swear that a drum machine was deployed.
I hope that this album does well for the Blues Foundation and that Poggi finds his mojo on future outings. Harpway 61, however, is blues elevator music.
Steve Daniels is a contributing writer at BluesWax.
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