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Studebaker John - Waiting On The Sun

Avanti Records

12 songs; 56:47; Splendid

Style: Modern Electric Blues, Blues Rock

The big three U.S. auto makers may think they need a bailout, but not Studebaker -- Studebaker John, that is. Both John Grimaldi and his own personal Studebaker Hawk automobile are running like well oiled machines. Chicago is the “Home of the Blues” in part because there are over 90 steadily working lead musicians, and Studebaker John has been an integral part of that scene since the 1970s. Having recorded over ten albums, five on the Blind Pig label, and toured Europe many times, Grimaldi is a respected stalwart.

His newest, all original, CD is a solid, straight ahead blues example of his experience and consummate skills.

Born in 1952, in an Italian-American section of Chicago, Grimaldi’s home had many instruments lying about the house as his father was himself an amateur musician. As a youngster Grimaldi began playing several of the instruments but focused on playing mainly harmonica by age seven. Under the spell of music he heard on Maxwell Street, Chicago’s famed open air market and blues melting pot, young John became a performer there himself after catching performances from the likes of Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson. After taking in a “life-changing” Hound Dog Taylor club date, Grimaldi also mastered guitar and slide guitar. Grimaldi began performing as Studebaker John and the Hawks in the ‘70s. The band name referenced his Studebaker Hawk and was also intended as a tribute to his friend, J.B. Hutto and the Hawks.

Track one kicks off sounding like Santana sending out piercing notes from guitar. The up tempo “Down At the Bottom” is typical of the entire set with nary a slow song in the mix. Paul Ashford is the drummer, and Bob Halaj is on board for bass and background vocals while Bartek Szopinski adds organ and piano to the set. Manny Hernandez and Eric Michaels appear only on this first track adding, respectively, Latin percussion and keyboards.

The fun romp continues on track two “She Just Won’t Roll” with a driving shuffle. “She knows you want to rock, but she just won’t roll,” laments Grimaldi’s seasoned vocals. John then shares how to, thankfully, leave spaces between notes on a tasty guitar solo.

“Every Night is a Saturday Night” highlights fuzz-tone guitar and funk plus great harmony vocals on the chorus.

We get our first taste of Grimaldi’s killer slide guitar on “Hell To Pay” along with some fun “Whoo-s” shouted in the chorus. John’s harmonica gets a great workout on “Natural Born Boogie.”

As a songwriter and musician, Studebaker John has emerged as a major creative force in the world of modern blues. This album proves what a standout Studebaker John has become.

Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL

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