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Hiromasa Suzuki - From Where I Am 

Hiromasa Suzuki is an absolutely burning blues guitarist from Chiba, Japan. His career began in Tokyo in the early 1980’s and led to a move to the USA in 1992, where he quickly became part of the New York blues scene. By 1997, Suzuki was playing with the likes of Sam Taylor, Jimmy Vivino, Shemekia Copeland, and other notables, and by 2003 was part of Deborah Coleman’s band. From Where I Am is Suzuki’s first solo CD and it is certain not to be his last. He displays total grasp and control of his guitar on the record, and plays in a variety of blues and soul styles on electric and acoustic. Suzuki is clearly a student of all eras of this music we love and is also living proof that if you feel it, you can play it, no matter where you come from or what language you speak or sing in. Suzuki features a few guest vocalists on the album, but he sings the majority of the songs himself in Japanese. This can be a little strange at first, as it distances the listener from the storytelling aspect of the blues, but the strangeness passes as Suzuki’s guitar skills unfold across the tunes and his deep soulful vibe pulls you in.

Suzuki pulls out a couple standards like “Mojo Workin’” and “Crossroads” but the real meat here is on his original tunes. The lyrics are hard to interpret due to the language barrier and it is easy to long to know just HOW his mean ol’ woman is doing him wrong, but after the first couple spins, the music carries the day. Hiro is a good singer, however, and it is surprising how well his voice functions as an instrument. One of the best moments on the record is “Kinoumadetowa Chigau Asa” which is all soul and R&B with Suzuki playing some of the best slide guitar this reviewer has heard in recent years. Hiromasa Suzuki shows us all that playing music is about feeling, emotion, and skill, not where we come from or who we are and is a highly recommended choice for anyone looking for a slightly different flavor of the blues.

Mike O'Cull

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