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Bob Margolin with Mike Sponza Band - Blues Around the World

VizzTone Label

12 tracks/45:20

Last year guitarist Bob Margolin did a short, ten date tour in six European countries backed by the Mike Sponza. An avid admirer of Margolin’s work, Sponza suggested the idea of the two musicians joining forces to form a formidable two-guitar line-up with solid rhythmic support from Sponza’s bandmates, Moreno Buttinar on drums and Mauro Todd on bass. The excitement and chemistry that the musicians felt on stage coupled with the over-whelming positive audience response to their shows made it an easy decision to try to capture the magic on a recording.

The disc opens with some wicked slide guitar from Margolin on “Lost Again” before slipping into a far gentler groove on “Blues Lover”, an ode to a woman devoted to blues music. The lilting rhythm forms a fine backdrop for Sponza’s fine fretwork before Margolin finishes the track with more slide licks that cut to the bone. Another original, “While You’re Down There”, is a swinging number with the pickers again trading energized solos.

The band switches to an acoustic mode on the confessional “Crazy ‘Bout You Baby”, with Sponza showing off his slide guitar skills. On “Hard Feelings”, Margolin’s gripping vocal matches the intensity of a tune based on a Peter Gunn-like riff. Sponza adopts a menacing guitar tone that serves as a counterpoint to Margolin’s brighter slide licks. The leader spins one of his tales from the road on “The Door Was Open”, which describes a late-night rendezvous with a willing woman – complete with a brisk tempo and some rockabilly-style guitar.

Sponza wrote two of songs and handles the lead vocal on both. His heavy-hearted performance on “Rather Than Being Free” is a highlight along with the intimate conversation between the two guitarists. They really turn up the heat on the smoking hot “It’s Hard to Be on the Road”, the two men sharing the vocal before Margolin unleashes a blistering solo that will burn a hole in your soul!

The three covers are well-worn tunes with “Down in the Alley” benefiting from robust singing from Margolin as his trademark gruff voice captures a variety of emotional expressions while he trades scintillating licks with Sponza. “Rollin’ and Tumblin’“gives the leader a chance to play slide in the style of his former boss, Muddy Waters. The disc closes with a downcast Margolin easing the sorrow of the loss of Chloe, one of his beloved Border Collies, on “Love in Vain” with help from Richard “Rosy” Rosenblatt on harmonica.

In the press release for this disc, Margolin states that this may be the best recording of his lengthy solo career. You can be sure that he won’t get any arguments from me on that point. This one packs a potent punch with the leader singing with a vibrant enthusiasm that is consistently matched by the stellar interplay between Margolin and Sponza’s guitars. And don’t forget about Margolin’s bone-chilling slide guitar tone! This impressive effort makes me hope that we will someday get the opportunity to hear Margolin with the Mike Sponza band here in the States. Don’t miss this one!!

Reviewer Mark Thompson retired after twelve years as president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. and moved to Florida. He has been listening to music of all kinds for over fifty years. Favorite musicians include Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Magic Slim, Magic Sam, Charles Mingus and Count Basie.

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