Self release [Release date 11.04.17]
Anthony Rosano & The Conqueroos hail from Virginia, so presumably the decision to hook up with producer/guitarist Mike Zito and high profile engineer David Ferrell and record in New Orleans was in the hope that some of 2nd line funky rhythms might rub off on them.
And while there are certainly some funky moments here, there’s also blues-rock, southern rock and Americana with a rootsy ending.
The self titled 11 track album is full of well worked songs, spirited playing and some great solos, but it ultimately lacks a big vocal presence.
There’s actually some moments when Anthony Rosano’s excellent guitar playing does his best taking for him, while his vocals are more workmanlike than authoritative.
That said, there’s barely a poor track on here, as the road tested band stretches out under the watchful eye of producer Zito who occasionally adds his own guitar and bv’s.
The opening ‘28 Days’ comes with Zito’s boisterous imprint, but it’s the kind of blues-rock bluster that only intermittently rears its head. The album pulls in different stylistic directions, but doesn’t always stay long enough in any one genre to leave an enduring stamp.
The tightly wrought shuffle ‘Give Me Strength’ finds the band playing to its strengths, with the seamless rhythm section of bassist Paul Warren and drummer Scott Smith pushing the front line players to the max. Jeremy “JB” Bustillos doubles on sax and harp takes the first harp solo with a great John Popper style tone, as the band boogie’s in and out of an impressive track.
The slick ‘You Don’t Know Me’ is also a decent song with a killer harp and steely guitar break, but again needs better phrasing, while the sax-led ‘Love Got A Hold On Me’ adds a funk quotient to a good composition, which benefits from welcome bv’s and an insistent hook.
It’s all good stuff and would certainly fill a blues club dance floor by the end of the night, but in terms of standing out in an already over populated blues circuit the band needs a stronger identity.
The autobiographical ballad ‘Long Island Sound’ is a step in that direction. It features a strong narrative and boasts special guest Johnny Sansone on accordion, while the sledgehammer blues of ‘Bound To You’ brings contrast and diversity. Rosano adds a defining guitar solo, which he narrowly fails to emulate with his vocal phrasing on the outro.
He’s much better on the southern rock influenced ‘Blackbird’, with an almost belligerent vocal attack that is offset by harmony guitars and his own uplifting solo.
‘Revolve’ also impresses from the opening sax and guitar double lines to the repeated hook which gives the funky song unexpected momentum. There’s even a quasi-psychedelic breakdown, before a trademark solo from Rosano and a perfunctory ending. Clocking in at just over 3 minutes it’s a succinct appraisal of what the band do so well.
Best of all, is the staccato funk of ‘Shakin’ In The Veins’ which cleverly evokes the ‘needle and spoon’ lyrical subject matter. Special guest Anders Osborne shapes the song to his own ends with some deft slide work, while “JB” Bastillo adds some great wailing harp as the song explodes on a short frenzied middle section.
The band saves the best to last, with the rootsy ‘Proud of My Sins’, which features Rosano on mandolin and Michael Harvey on fiddle. It’s the triumph of simplicity over bluster and evokes both The Band and even the Stones in their country phase.
It’s a great song that belatedly gives the band the sort of identity that the rest of the album strives for, but only partially achieves. ***½
Review by Pete Feenstra
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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