Release date: August 12, 2019
Delmark Records By Robin Zimmerman
It’s easy to see why folks are blown away by Breezy Rodio’s latest — If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It. On this second Delmark release, Rodio breathes new life into a diverse roster of highly listenable musical styles.
From self-penned Chicago blues shuffles to reworked reggae standards, Rodio serves up 16 sweet tracks that showcase his guitar chops, lyrical prowess and reverence for the Chicago blues tradition with a retinue that includes Monster Mike Welch, Kid Andersen, Corey Dennison and others.
An Italian expat, Rodio has gallivanted around the global block. He bit into the Big Apple for a spell but left NYC to soak in Chicago’s musical gravy. His Windy City resume includes nine years under Lindsay Alexander’s tutelage. It’s obvious that Rodio’s paid his dues and gained the respect of Chicago’s blues elite starting with Billy Branch’s spot-on liner notes.
One of Branch’s best quotes dealt with Rodio’s stewardship of the Chicago blues legacy and his persistence in what can be a tough and demanding business. Branch noted, “Though long gone are most of the classic great musicians, Chicago is still the world Mecca of the Blues. I have seen many musicians with great potential fall by the wayside, succumbing to the many pitfalls that plague the path to success. Breezy has not only survived but has emerged as a dynamic artist.”
While the blues still rules supreme in the City of Big Shoulders, there is a large contingent with a deep fondness for those Jamaican reggae vibrations. On “If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It, Rodio shows off his “ya mon” fluency with some fine renditions of songs first made famous by Toots Hibbert and the legendary Bob Andy.
In addition to taking the listener everywhere from Chicago shuffles to rootsy reggae, Rodio also shows a penchant for time traveling with tracks that run the gamut from the Forties swing of “Look Me in the Eye,” to sweltering old soul numbers complemented by a solid horn section. The top-notch crew has Constantine Alexander on trumpet, alto and tenor saxophonist Ian Letts and Ian “The Chief” McGarrie on baritone adding musical muscle in all the right places.
Rodio’s roots as Alexander’s bandleader shows in his selection of backing musicians as he’s plucked up a “who’s who” of Chicago blues. The stellar cast includes Sumito "Ariyo" Ariyoshi on piano, Dan Tabion on organ, Light Palone on bass and Lorenzo Francocci, on drums.
The band comes out blazing on the title track. On “If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix it,” everyone is completely in sync with Rodio’s swaggering, full-throated delivery that pays homage to the golden age of Sixties soul.
On the next number, “Chicago to Biloxi Bay,” Rodio easily segues back to a bouncier, bluesier mode with pitch-perfect backing vocals provided by the always dynamic Corey Dennison. This star-packed track features a great guitar solo by Kid Andersen as well as a master class on harp by Simone “Harp” Nobile.
There’s also some magical harp work by way of Quique Gomez on the next track— “I’m a Shufflin’ Fool” which is further augmented with a silky-smooth guitar solo by the aforementioned Dennison. But, it’s on “Led to a Better Life” when Dennison really brings down the house on this tribute to the late young blues artist Michael Ledbetter. Dennison’s heartfelt vocals are complemented by Monster Mike Welch’s searing guitar solo on this New Orleans flavored number that’s beautiful and bittersweet on so many levels.
Rodio pays homage to his musical heroes throughout the course of this CD. B.B. King is well-represented with an excellent cover of “A Woman Don’t Care.” King also gets a shout out for his “class and taste” on “Dear Blues,” which includes a tip of the musical cap to Albert King and other influences.
Rodio’s also been heavily influenced by the musically-rich island of Jamaica. He’s long been involved in the local reggae scene and has earned praise for his unique take on both original material and classic covers. On If it Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It, Rodio comes up big with his own inventive spin on Bob Andy’s “Desperate Lover.” There’s also a remake of Frederick “Toots” Hibbert’s “I Need Your Love,” which finds a plaintive Rodio in peak vocal form.
Rodio is not lonely for long because he’s joined by few more musical mates on the final track, On “Another Day,” he brings on Marvin Little to play bass and Harley Gingras on drums as Rodio melodically recaps some back-and-forth relationship woes.
There should be no buyer’s remorse or related woes after legally downloading or purchasing this CD at a show. If it Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix it is the perfect title for the latest by an Italian renaissance man who seamlessly shows how to build a bridge that begins with blues and extends well beyond. From the obvious musical camaraderie and a generous helping of genres to the recognition of great blues traditions, If it Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It is a must for anyone’s musical toolbox.
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