John Fusco & The X-Road Riders
Checkerboard Lounge Recordings
It Comes From The Swamps and Ends Up In the Heart and Soul of Chicago!
The album cover and band name meant nothing to me when this arrived a couple of weeks ago; but the ‘stable’ it came from is full of thoroughbreds and rarely, if ever lets me down……then I spotted the names Cody and Luther Dickinson! As I played the album I skimmed through the Press Release to see that John Fusco is not just a singer and musician, but an Award winning filmmaker to boot; his last film was the Woody Harrelson/Kevin Costner movie The Highwaymen but his first screenplay was for the bio-pic Crossroads way back in 1986, so whatever this is, it’s got to be worth a listen.
Opening track Rolling Thunder is some multi-layered and intense Blues Rock of the ilk we’d normally associate with Stevie Ray Vaughan, but without the hysterical guitar solos and a singer with a voice so rich you’d swear his larynx was gold coated.
Everything here, bar their exquisite and original reworking of Crossroad Blues which closes things in glorious fashion with Luther Dickinson supplying some sublime slide guitar and a Memphis Rapper called Al Kapone adding a verse and not sounding even a little bit out of place, is from Fusco’s pen and vivid imagination.
If this is meant to be a bobby or side project; God knows what Fusco and Cody Dickinson would create if this was their day job!
They make the joint swing like crazy on Poutine with Fusco sounding sassy as anything and Cody playing the part of his ‘wing-man’ with consummate ease on geetar behind him.
The duo (and friends) are even cooler still when they slow things down a’la The Allmans on A Stones Throw and especially Hello, Highway which features Dickinson’s sizzling guitar again as Fusco shows us his Leon Russell side not just with his grizzly vocals, but on Hammond Organ too.
I don’t think I’m getting the best from this music either; as it’s a cold and wet February night as I type……. give it another three or four months and Can’t Have Your Cake and the diamond of a song Boogie on the Bayou will really come alive for me, as the sun bakes the back garden.
There’s not a bad song here, with a couple of genuine crackers tucked away in the shadows; Once I Pay This Truck Off conjures up all kinds of romantic imagery for a poor boy from Northern England and I Got Soul has all the hallmarks of the last song of the night jam; and in another lifetime would be covered by Rod Stewart and make the writer a small fortune.
But one song in particular has caught not just my attention, but my heart too……… Track #2 Drink Takes The Man; at first it’s a cool Blues groove but sooner or later the song, and especially the chorus will catch your ear and you will know someone close to you that it could be about. Obviously a very personal story to John Fusco (or he has one helluva imagination!) and to me; it’s a ‘once in a lifetime’ song for a songwriter. 10/10
With the Delta and for good measure, Chicago at its Roots this album by John and Cody takes us on a right royal roller-coaster ride around the back-roads and highways of Bluesville, before tipping us out on the side of the road bruised, battered, dusty, sweaty and dying for more….. lots more.
Released February 11th 2019