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Contino – Back Porch Dogma

Blind Pig Records

Time: 55:08

While Blind Pig Records has always been associated with having major blues players on its roster, they have no qualms of branching out and including musicians whose backgrounds are eclectic in the approach to the music. This is where the CD Back Porch Dogma by Contino enters the picture.

A band coming from Las Vegas, Nevada, Contino can be enjoyed by fans of Little Feat and The Radiators. Even Maria Muldaur drops in to add her vocals in the mix. With a guest appearance of that high caliber, you know things are pointing in the right direction.

Gutbucket boogie prevails in opening track “Rotgut Run” with Al Ek’s harmonica driving the tune into a delicious groove of shaking your moneymaker a few times. Though “V-8 Ford” does show like a re-write of a Muddy Water’s song doesn’t mean the band can’t have fun when playing the blues. Keyboardist Billy Truitt plays with the determination of recalling Pinetop Perkins in his younger days.

In covering Tom Waits’ “Temptation,” Mexicali meets Zydeco and Contino’s accordion playing is as sweet as the sugar cane in the New Orleans Bayou. When speaking of Zydeco, it can’t get any more Americana than the track “Zydeco Train” with the whole band pouring on the steam and vying for solo spots to showcase some hot chops.

The music is moderately paced so the track “Dog Days” is as good time as any to slow things down a tad with Al Ek’s harmonica being down home. Whether the band derives inspiration from Little Feat or not, the tune “One Thing” smacks of the essence of Lowell George and the guys show an appreciation for songwriters Leiber and Stoller in their take of “Three Cool Cats” with Contino’s accordion playing and Truitts’ keyboards weaving counterpoint to create jazzy lines thick as summer heat.

It seems that the music of New Orleans casts its shadow and this seems to be an environment the band works in best. Contino’s accordion playing is all over the tracks which accounts for the sounds of music having its roots in the Crescent City.

Overall the blues doesn’t spray itself all over the songs. On a rare occasion it rears its head like on the song “I Don’t Want To Know.” But because the New Orleans party has been in full swing, a tune like this doesn’t elevate the energy level so much but knock it down a peg or two. So it’s up to the song strangely titled “Monkey” to attempt to jump-start the proceedings. Pete Contino may be the centerpiece of the band with his vocals and accordion playing. Certainly the whole band is worth deserving of praise. But it is in multi-instrumentalist Al Ek that the songs come to fruition. Being a jack of all trades with the ability to play guitars, mandolin and harmonica only adds extra spice to a gumbo of music that sounds like its being hatched in New Orleans and not Las Vegas.

Titling this CD Back Porch Dogma is a strange choice. Then again considering its musical circumstances maybe it’s not. If anything the title sounds like something overseeing something which sounds like American roots music. For a group coming from Las Vegas, they certainly have their finger on the pulse of sounds best found at Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras. This music might not go down too well with fans who want things in a bluesy direction. For those planning a trip to New Orleans and wanting to party all night long, this music would be great in a road trip while travelling by car. Consider it a soundtrack to a city which midnight lasts forever and the party never ends.

Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.

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