World-wise and full of experience. His voice is strictly street-level, infused with heart, informed by years, and touched by love
Label: KTBA Records
14 tracks – 66:10
Dion: The Wanderer, the post doo-wop crooner, the guy warning us about Runaround Sue, that Italian kid from the Bronx, the singer-songwriter from the late sixties - you know, that Dion. Who would have thought that he’d reinvent himself in the 2000s as a blues artist? After all, how many bluesmen have a last name like DiMucci, anyway? And yet, here we are with Stomping Ground, Dion’s second blues album in two years (the first was his excellent Blues With Friends) and, if I had anything to say about it, I wouldn’t mind if he kept up the pattern.
Certainly one of the strengths of Stomping Ground is Dion’s vocal delivery, which is not (in a classical blues sense) gritty or anguished, but is world-wise and full of experience. His voice is strictly street-level, infused with heart, informed by years, and touched by love - the kind of subtle communicator that makes you nod your head in agreement: “yeah, that’s the truth.”
Like any good blues album, the songs talk to you. While the protagonist in “The Wanderer” was a romantic predator full of bravado and bristling hormones, the Dion of Stomping Ground is a teller of stories with a backlog of memories, advice, and observations about life that range from the rocking, testosterone-filled “I’ve got to Get to You,” with its “Johnny B. Goode” / “Maybelline” musical vibe, to the slow, melodic, romantic blues ballad “There Was a Time,” with a beautifully-phrased vocal by DiMucci. There are rants (‘don’t let the woke-cats rock ya’’ says “Hey Diddle-Diddle”), recollections (“My Stomping Ground”), and even an out-and-out tribute to the un-named Mac Rebennack (“That’s What the Doctor Said”), featuring such lyrical clues as ‘I was in the right place but it’s the wrong time,’ and the singer’s shouting, ‘oh! Such a night!’ Uniquely, there’s a little exposition on the function of Angels in “Angel in the Alleyways” and even reference to The Bible’s ‘Love Chapter’(I Corinthians 13) in “I’ve Got to Get to You.”
For a blues album to work you’ve got to have the right players - and, boy, does Stomping Ground deliver! The list of guest artists reads like a who’s who of contemporary blues and rock players: guitar legends Joe Bonamassa, G.E. Smith, Mark Knopfler, Sonny Landreth, Eric Clapton, Joe Menza, Mike Menza, Jimmy Vivino, Peter Frampton, Billy Gibbons, and Keb’ Mo’ each firing on all cylinders, absolutely burning up the tracks. Patti Scialfa (vocals) and Bruce Springsteen (guitar and harmonica) brighten up “Angel in the Alleyways,” and Steve Conn offers up some N’orlans-style piano on the Dr. John tribute track. Lending vocal abilities are Boz Scaggs, Rickie Lee Jones, Marcia Ball, and the aforementioned Patti Scialfa. Laying down a great musical foundation is the amazing, multi-talented Wayne Hood: guitar, bass, Wurlitzer electric piano, Hammond organ, drums, and string and horn arrangements.
The songs are written by Dion DiMucci and Mike Aquilina with the exception of “If You Wanna’ Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “I Got My Eyes on You Baby,” by Dion DiMucci, “I’ve Got to Get to You,” by Dion DiMucci and Bill Tuohy, and “Red House,” by Jimi Hendrix. The album was produced by Wayne Hood and Dion DiMucci, who deliver an appropriately visceral sound - a very basic band ambiance with tastefully inserted funk from a tight horn section and just enough strings to sweeten up a couple of spots (don’t worry - nothing gets schmaltzy).
I’d say that two in a row qualifies Mr. DiMucci as a reliable bluesman - and Stomping Ground is about as universally appealing as a blues album gets: it’s fun, it rocks, it’s got humor, wisdom, great playing, and soul. It’s much more than a guitar-drenched exercise in excess - the legendary Dion DiMucci makes the blues a thing to share with friends. In the liner notes, Pete Townsend writes of Dion, “He sings us songs that began in his heart when he was a little kid wandering the Bronx.” Now we all get to experience The Wanderer’s stomping ground.
- Bert Saraco
you can see Bert Saraco’s concert photography at www.facebook.com/express.image