Artist: Jonn Del Toro Richardson
Album: Tengo Blues
Release Date: 11/27/2015
Jonn Del Toro Richardson first came to my attention when he was the lead guitarist for Otis Taylor, touring during Taylor’s “Recapturing the Banjo” period. Taylor’s endorsement provides enough credibility in its own right, considering the likes of powerful guitarists Eddie Turner and the late Gary Moore who have held down that chair. Richardson also shone brightly on the 2011 release, Time Slips On By, with blues mandolinist Rich DelGrosso. Wild Ride with friend Sean Carney followed. This is Richardson’s debut as a leader, and it’s an auspicious one.
You can hear all the influences of Richardson’s Houston musical education, from Tex-Mex, to country, to R&B and certainly a Texas blues sound, augmented here with pristine production from fellow Texan and iconic guitarist, Anson Funderburgh. The Texas Horns add additional punch on seven of the thirteen tracks, beginning with opening burner, “Behind the Curtain.” Richardson penned all of the tunes with help from Funderburgh on two. Richardson not only wields a killer axe, but has exceptional tone too. What’s even more surprising are his vocal chops, which have the requisite amount of soul and range you’d associate with a veteran blues singer.
“Get Me Back to Texas” is a blues shuffle where Richardson and Funderburgh trade leads. “Tall Pretty Baby,” the album’s centerpiece for me, is an up-tempo, roof-raising collaboration of Richardson, Funderburgh and the blaring Texas Horns. The instrumental title track, as it implies, sets a Tex-Mex groove that’s a tour de force for Richardson’s guitar mastery.
It was a long journey for Richardson to reach this debut and he flourishes as a leader. Nearing the end of 2015, count this as one of this year’s strongest blues releases.
– Jim Hynes