On Blue Largo's latest release, Before The Devil Steals Your Soul (Coffeegrinds Records), guitarist Eric Lieberman and vocalist Alicia Aragon move from blues to swing to jump, jazz, soul, R&B, and gospel. Produced by Lieberman and Nathan James, the new release features 14 tracks (plus a bonus cut), four of which are cover tunes. This is the band's fourth release overall and their second since Lieberman returned to performing after battling Focal Distonia, which had rendered him unable to play guitar for over a decade.
"Wash Away," the opener, is a spiritual of sorts, at least a spiritual-flavored song, lamenting the current volatile political and social culture, which is also addressed in "Same Race," which addresses the need for peace and unity in the world. "If I Can Make It To Augusta," is a gently swinger in recognition of long-traveling musicians, "Monrovia" is a story-song of betrayal and treachery told with a Latin flair, and the title track is a gospel tune about living your life to the utmost before it's too late (which also pays tribute to four blues guitarists).
The guitar instrumental, "Bodas De Oro," might remind some listeners of Ry Cooder's foray into Cuban music. It's a dazzling tribute to Cuban guitarist Manuel Galban that features Lieberman on baritone guitar with some beautiful piano from Tayrn "T-Bird" Donath and percussion from Mike Tempo (great name). "I'm Alive" is a testimony to the healing power of music, while "The Long Goodbye" is a somber ballad inspired by the passing of one of Lieberman and Aragon's friends to Alzheimer's in honor of those who care for their loved ones suffering long illnesses.
The band's straight-forward cover of the Jimmy Ruffin classic "What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted" is very good, as well as their cover of "Feeling Good," penned by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse and covered by numerous artists (most famously by Nina Simone). "Grinder's Groove," an original instrumental conceived by Lieberman, is reminiscent of the great blues/R&B/jazz guitar showcases from the 50's, and the swinging "Five Till Eight" keeps that jazzy vibe going, as does the instrumental cover of Nat Adderley's "Work Song," which features two saxes (Dave Castel De Oro – tenor, Eddie Croft – baritone sax). The bonus cut is an acoustic guitar duet with Lieberman and co-producer Nathan James, "Lose Your Money."
Before The Devil Steals Your Soul is a nice, relaxing set of tunes from Blue Largo. It's an album will make you smile, it will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will make you think……something that all good music should do.
- Graham Clarke
This CD came to me prior before we finalized our previous issue but I just didn't have the time to get to it, instead loading it to my music folder for later listening. As I daily randomize my music to get me through the day, occasionally a song from this album would come up, and I'd be so impressed with the female lead singer that I'd always stop what I was doing to check out what band and what album was playing.
So far that was my introduction to the Southern California-based ensemble Blue Largo, with their new album being Before The Devil Steals Your Soul (Coffeegrinds Records). That female voice that consistently caught my ear is Alicia Aragon, and she's backed by a tight band with lots and lots of big sound. Co-produced by Eric Lieberman and Nathan James, this is an album with something for everyone.
Opening the disc is stirring, eerie gospel vocals before launching into the funky "Wash Away," which then closes with the same vocal chorus that started the song. Next up is a pleasant shuffle, "If I Can Make It To Augusta,' with good horn accompaniment including guest tenor sax man Jonny Viau.
I'm not sure how to describe "Monrovia," because there's a whole lot going on here. There's kind of a mysterious 1950s-era movie soundtrack-ish sound with a cha-cha beat, big horns, and outstanding drumming by Marcus Bashore (coincidentally, a childhood acquaintance of mine who I've seen once in the last 50 years). "Same Race" is notable for its extremely important message. A message that really needs to be echoed by many of our politicians and divisive media figures out there. "... We're the same race, the human race, so please don't tear us apart ..." That line gets repeated throughout the song, and really needs to be chanted on the streets of this divided nation.
The tempo gets kicked into high gear on the title cut, which starts with a female chorus singing down by the riverside and accompanied only by hand clapping, before a short acoustic guitar riff is followed by a rollicking gospel stomper. "Bodas De Oro" is an instrumental that sounds straight out of Havana circa 1955, with pianist Taryn "T-Bird" Donath and guitarist Eric Lieberman both highlighted here. Yeah, you're right --- this album has something for just about everyone.
"I'm Alive" is an upbeat funky blues with a nice guitar solo by Lieberman, good vocals from Ms. Aragon, and tasteful sax playing from Eddie Croft and Dave Castel De Oro. Guaranteed to have you up and dancing around the room. The pace slows considerably for a Ray Charles-esque blues, "The Long Goodbye," with subtle jazzy guitar from Lieberman.
The band goes Motown on us with their very nice version of Jimmy Ruffin's "What Becomes Of the Brokenhearted." They admit in the liner notes that this one took the whole band out of their respective comfort zones but they really nail it, especially the horns and Ms. Donath's underlying piano accompaniment. Ms Aragon really ramps up her vocals towards the end, pumping in a final shot of energy. She then segues nicely into a slow, jazzy Nina Simone tune, "Feeling Good," with both of these last two tunes showing off her vocal versatility. Lieberman also does a mighty fine job on guitar here.
"Grinder's Groove" is our second instrumental of the album, a slow-paced shuffle spotlighting Lieberman's guitar work and another appearance on tenor sax by Viau. (I'm glad that Lieberman gave credit to the late great Clarence Hollimon in the liner notes for this song, in addition to other guitar influences. Clarence was one of the absolute best, both as a guitarist and as a person, and I miss him very much.) "Five To Eight" again takes us back several decades, a jazzy swing tune with sassy vocals by Ms. Aragon. Ms. Donath is turned loose on the ivories at the midpoint of the song with a nice solo followed by equally-good sax and guitar solos.
"Every Time You Call My Name" is a jumping love song that Lieberman wrote for Ms. Aragon, and it gets presented here with plenty of emotion. And a couple of killer sax solos by Crost and Castel De Oro, too. Closing this very nice album is a jazzy cover of the Nat Adderley classic, "Work Song," presented here as an instrumental romper that gives every band member their place in the spotlight.
Before The Devil Steals Your Soul brings together a lot of diverse styles and lots of different musicians in a tight, cohesive package that will tickle even the most jaded music fan. Highly recommended and certainly worth tracking down.
- Bill Mitchell
BEFORE THE DEVIL STEALS YOUR SOUL
WASH AWAY–IF I CAN MAKE IT TO AUGUSTA–MONROVIA–SAME RACE–BEFORE THE DEVIL STEALS YOUR SOUL–BODAS DE ORO (GOLDEN WEDDING)–I'M ALIVE–THE LONG GOODBYE–WHAT BECOMES OF THE BROKEN-HEARTED–FEELING GOOD–GRINDER'S GROOVE–FIVE TILL EIGHT–EVERY TIME YOU CALL MY NAME–WORK SONG–HIDDEN BONUS TRACK
Guitarist Eric Leiberman and vocalist Alicia Aragon form the backbone of the blues band Blue Largo, and their latest album, "Before The Devil Steals Your Soul," has been a labor of love that literally took years to come to fruition. Eric was a guitar fixture on the SoCal scene since 1981, but in 2006, he developed a rare condition diagnosed as Focal Dystonia, rendering him unable to play guitar. For eleven years, he underwent extensive therapy and re-training, and just recently believed himself ready to play. Blues fans are the winners here, as Eric shows no signs of his difficulties over the past eleven years.
Alicia got her desire to sing as a child, after hearing "Mavis on the radio," and her supple voice is the perfect complement to this material. It deals with the divisiveness in today's society, and also love, loss, hope, despair, letting go, and eventual redemption, and the horn section on several cuts adds a soulful touch. That feeling of "heartache and misery" leads off, with the gospel-infused "Wash Away," where "the poor ain't got no voice at all." That gospel feel carries on thru the joyous title cut, where redemption is free, and we can "jump before it's too late!" "Five Till Eight" uses that good ol' round-the-clock-blues theme as our heroine sings a jazzy tale of "lyin' in my new baby's arms," and jettisoning the ex!
There are several excellent instrumentals that show off Eric's versatility as well as the extent to which he has regained his chops. "Bodas De Oro" is a sweet Latin-tinged shout-out to Manuel Galban, while "Grinder's Groove" is a cool reminder of the great instrumentals that permeated the airwaves of our youth.
We had two favorites, too. A biting commentary on today's society and the Black Lives Matter movement is also a call for peace and unity, "Same Race." And, the difficulties in letting go of a love one ravaged by Alzheimer's Disease are spelled out in the poignant, bittersweet, "Long Goodbye."
Blue Largo has faced some daunting obstacles over the last decade-and-a-half or so, but Eric and Alicia have persevered. Enjoy this collection, and be sure to jump and rejoice while you can, "Before The Devil Steals Your Soul!" Until next time…
- Sheryl and Don Crow
It's been three years since we've heard new music from Blue Largo. The wait ended this month with the release of Before the Devil Steals Your Soul. Eric Lieberman and Alicia Aragon have assembled a talent-rich rhythm section from the wealth of Southern Californian artistry and the outcome is stellar. Of the 15 tracks, there are ten new Lieberman compositions and four cover songs. And almost all of them are designed to get you up on your feet. A special acoustic blues bonus track written and performed by Lieberman and album producer, Nathan James, closes out the project.
But make no mistake; this is a full-tilt big band with a solid blues core surrounded by brass, keys, and even a gospel chorale. They transition easily from swing blues to jump, jive, and jazz. Depending on the lineup, they are just as electric ripping up '50s rock 'n' roll as they are putting their stamp on R&B classics and Motown soul. From start to finish this collaboration exemplifies the bands depth and diversity.
But it wouldn't be a true Blue Largo project if it didn't include at least a few songs of enlightenment and acceptance. Lieberman says, "The two that are most relevant to what is going on in our country today are 'Wash Away' and 'Same Race' and in my heart, these two songs are the crux of the record." Both tunes serve up a gospel-tinged appeal for a world filled with more tolerance and less hate. Even the CD's title track has a full chorus singing praises of hope… "Before the Devil Steals Your Soul." The band pays homage to Jimmy Ruffin with their version of "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted." It fits nicely with the theme of "finding some kind of peace of mind" in today's chaotic world. The same can be said for Blue Largo's redux of Nina Simone's "Feeling Good." Lieberman says that song has a direct correlation to the song "Same Race" simply because of the way the outspoken Simone "used her music as a platform to speak to civil rights issues."
Great traveling tunes, "If I Can Make It to Augusta" and "Monrovia," keep your toes tapping and the Latin-tinged "Bodas De Oro" adds an International flavor. The Electo Rosell-penned instrumental highlights the musical interaction between Lieberman's guitar, pianist Taryn Donath, and percussionist Mike Tempo. You realize a project is based in love and friendship when it's dedicated to the memory of no less than six friends. That includes the track "The Long Goodbye," which touches on the devastation of Alzheimer's and how difficult it is losing a friend while they are still alive. My bet is the CD won't leave your player.
- Tim Mattox
Blue Largo is a band started by guitarist Eric Lieberman and vocalist Alicia Aragon nearly two decades ago. They had to take a rather lengthy break at the end of 2006, while Eric Lieberman worked to overcome focal dystonia that affected his right hand. In 2015, they were back with Sing Your Own Song, and are now following that up with Before The Devil Steals Your Soul, which features mostly original material written by Eric Lieberman. This album addresses our troubles and concerns, but also gives us – or reminds us of – reasons for celebration, for joy. And for that, I am thankful. This is an album I'll be returning to often. It gives me nearly everything I am craving, needing. It is full of soul and good grooves, wonderful vocals and plenty of sax. The musicians on this release include Marcus P. Bashore on drums, Mike "Sandalwood" Jones on bass, Taryn "T-Bird" Donath on piano, Rafael Salmon on organ, Dave Castel De Oro on tenor saxophone and organ, and Eddie Croft on saxophone, plus several others on certain tracks.
This fantastic disc opens with "Wash Away," the beginning of which is sung to the accompaniment of organ, the vocals delivered with a lot of soul. The song then becomes a good bluesy number, with some wonderful work on guitar. This song is about the horrid mess our country has gotten itself into. Alicia sings, "Seems these days we're hanging on by just a thread/All this talk of nuclear war/We might all soon be dead." But she then follows that line with a more optimistic thought: "But I still want to believe that it ain't too late/If we just unite, stop preaching all this hate." I dig the instrumental section too. There is something both timely and timeless about this one. The music has a timeless or classic quality, giving the impression that our current troubles have been going on for a long time. And hell, that's how it feels, doesn't it? It feels like Donald Trump and his ugly group of racists have been in power for decades. "I've been waiting such a long time for love to return." Nena Anderson, Missy Andersen and Nathan James provide backing vocals on this track. Then "If I Can Make It To Augusta" has a more cheerful vibe, and again with a classic sound, which is wonderful. I love the sax, which functions as a voice, almost cheering Alicia on. Jonny Viau joins the group on tenor saxophone. There is also some wonderful work on piano, particularly in that instrumental section. There is optimism here, something we need. "I'm gonna get me a job/And find a good man too." The way she delivers these lines, I'm certain she'll accomplish what she sets out to do. And indeed, as the song fades out, she tells us, "I got a good man too/We're going to settle right down."
"Monrovia" becomes fun, particularly on the repeated title line, with the backing vocals and horns. Am I crazy or is there a bit of a "Ghost Riders In The Sky" vibe when the vocalists sing, "Monrovia, Monrovia"? Nena Anderson and Missy Andersen provide backing vocals, and Steve Ebner is on trumpet. This song tells a story, and that story turns deadly, proving that no one should go to Monrovia. It's followed by "Same Race," another song about the current, depressing state of our country, but a song that should unite people. The chorus is "Black lives matter/Police lives matter/Your life matters/My life matters/We're all the same race/We are the human race/So please don't tear us apart," and you'll likely find yourself singing along by the second time it comes around.
The album's title track, "Before The Devil Steals Your Soul," has a delicious and rousing gospel bent. "We all gotta jump before it's too late/We all gotta shout before it's too late/We all gotta dance before it's too late/And the devil steals your soul." Is it too late? Not while we're breathing. This excellent song features more cool work on sax, plus nice stuff on keys. This one will get you on your feet, and will raise your spirits too. Vocals are provided by Diane McCalester, Jacqueline Haynes, Nathaniel Greene Jr. and Andre Buck.
The album's first cover, "Bodas De Oro," takes things in a different direction, and features some nice work by Taryn Donath on piano. Then "I'm Alive" is a celebration of music, of life, and contains a damn good jam. Steve Ebner plays trumpet on this one. That's followed by "The Long Goodbye," which is one of those beautiful, soulful blues tunes in the same realm as something like "It Hurts Me Too." This one is about losing a loved one to Alzheimer's. "You started drifting, slowly drifting away/I feel I'm losing you little by little, day by day/And I can't keep from crying inside/It is such a long goodbye." Yeah, it's hard to keep from being moved by this song. It features some wonderful stuff on guitar and on piano. And that sax hits the spot.
Blue Largo delivers a cover of Jimmy Ruffin's "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted," here titled "What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted." Nathan James plays baritone guitar on this one. That's followed by another cover, "Feeling Good," the beginning of which is delivered a cappella, as Nina Simone did it. In general, I prefer the original tracks to the covers on this album, but this song is just so damn cool, so damn glorious. "It's a new dawn/It's a new day/It's a new life for me/And I'm feeling good." We all want that. And I love that sax. That's followed by "Grinder's Groove," an absolutely wonderful instrumental track with a classic groove and vibe to remind us of what life can be like. Music like this feels like the opposite of Donald Trump's grotesque world. I love it, and I love that sax!
Blue Largo then gets jazzy with "Five Till Eight," a song written by Nena Anderson. That's followed by "Every Time You Call My Name," a fun, positive tune. The first line is "I really like it when it rains." That line makes sense here in Los Angeles, but when I was living in Oregon, well, I would have had different feelings about it. The last song listed on the back of the CD case is Nat Adderley's "Work Song," and Blue Largo does a really good job with it, with each musician getting a chance to shine. Though that is the last listed tune, there is one more track, "Lose Your Money." This is an acoustic blues number that is a total delight, with just Eric Lieberman and Nathan James on guitar. Really, this is a solid album from beginning to end.
- Michael Doherty
San Diego-based Blue Largo has been thrilling California audiences up and down the coast since 1999. Featuring suave vocalist Alicia Aragon and lyrical guitarist Eric Lieberman, the band maintains a balance between rhythm, horns, solo spots, and mellow, laid-back blues. This time out, the band interprets seven of Lieberman's original songs as well as seven covers; each selection features dynamic interplay as well as persuasive soloing. Aragon delivers each lyric with warmth and understanding while Lieberman steps up to the bar with plenty to "say" on his axe.
The last time Southland Blues reviewed Blue Largo was in 2002. Since then Lieberman developed a rare neurological condition called focal dystonia that affected his ability to play guitar. He spent eight and a half years relearning the guitar using different muscular techniques, and it has turned out quite well. Along with solo instrumental interludes from pianist Taryn Donath, saxophonist Jonny Viau, acoustic fingerstyle guitarist Nathan James, and saxophonist Dave Castel de Oro, Lieberman sends a guitar message that reaches far and wide.
With Willie Dixon's "You Know My Love," Aragon and the band show how slow and meaningful they can interpret. The album's high point comes through "Evening," an oldie by Mitchell Parish and Harry White that finds Aragon singing the blues convincingly while guitar, bass, drums and tenor saxophone share with her the feeling that can only be brought out by this great music.
- Jim Santella
Californian band Blue Largo was founded by guitarist Eric Liber-man and vocalist Alicia Aragon in 1999 and they released two albums in 2000 and 2002. Disaster then struck in the form of a rare neurological condition (Focal Dysto-nia) that affected Eric and made it impos-sible for him to play. Determined to play again Eric had to teach himself from scratch, a process that obviously took time. Once able to play again Eric and Alicia returned to live performance but after a gap of thirteen years felt it was high time to record some new material, resulting in this fine and varied album. On the earlier albums the band mainly cov-ered their heroes from the 1940's and 50's – T-Bone Walker, Louis Jordan, Dinah Washington, etc. However, in the interval Eric had jotted down ideas for some origi-nal songs and this CD has seven of Eric's songs placed alongside tunes from the likes of Earl Hooker, Magic Sam and Wil-lie Dixon. The band is Alicia on vocals, Eric on guitar, Johnny Viau on sax (Dave Castel de Oro also plays sax on two tracks), Taryn Donath on piano: Marcus Bashore or Ron Felton play drums; bass duties are divided between Art Kraatz and Joey Jazdzewski and Missy Andersen adds backing vocals to four tracks. The album was produced by Eric, Alicia and Nathan James who contributes a variety of guitar, bass and backing vocals.
The album opens with four originals which demonstrate the scope of the band: "Walkin' On A Tightrope" has plenty of shimmering guitar and funky horns on a really catchy tune, pianist Taryn taking the first solo, Eric the second. Alicia has the sort of voice that fits this retro style per-fectly and on track two she shows that again on "Kindness, Love And Under-standing" which is a fast-paced tune with plenty of sax from Johnny and Dave who nails a fine tenor solo here. The title track has a 'hot gospel' feel with the fast-paced rhythm punctuated by the horn pulses and short cameos for piano and guitar. The pace drops for "Tears Of Joy", a gorgeous melody with some latin hints in the per-cussion work and a lovely vocal from Alicia who sings of poverty but also the human spirit that can rise above it. The first cover is the instrumental "Guitar Rhumba" from the Earl Hooker songbook. As the title suggests this is a feature for Eric who plays superbly while the band adds some latin percussion and pianist Taryn really gets into the spirit of the tune. Another original "Prisoner Of The Night" borrows some of those familiar blues themes such as the 'mojo hand' while the horns play a storm on a tune that reminds you of "Kidney Stew", Johnny's muscular tenor solo being followed by Eric in T-Bone mood – great stuff!
Mitchell Parish and Harry White's "Evening" is a classic tune and has been covered in recent years by Colin James And The Little Big Band and Sugar Ray & The Bluetones but Blue Largo do a good job with Alicia's excellent vocal and Johnny's rasping tenor solo. Eric clearly has "Nothin' To Prove" in the songwriting stakes and this one is no exception as the band rocks along behind Alicia who sings of Eric's struggles to get back to playing ("working and practising until your fingers bleed") and Eric shows how far he has come in a fine solo. Another familiar cover is Willie Dixon's "You Know My Love", originally by Otis Rush but also covered by Sugar Ray & The Bluetones on their "Evening" album and Alicia's strong vocal is framed by the horns and guitar on the familiar chorus to good ef-fect. Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown's best known tune has to be "Okie Dokie Stomp" (written by Pluma Davis) and Eric's short but sweet version says all it needs to in just over two minutes of break-neck pace. "Elevator To The Gallows" was the title of a Miles Davis tune for a 1957 French film but the same title is a brooding ballad written by Eric and su-perbly sung by Alicia with excellent ac-companiment by the whole band and fine solos from Taryn, Johnny and Eric – a standout track. To close out the album the band gives us three covers of con-trasting styles: "I Need You So Bad" bounces along with Eric leading the way in Magic Sam's ringing style; pedal steel player Herb Remington's "Remington Ride" is Western Swing and Eric proves that he can master that style also in a sparse arrangement; even more sparse is the version of The Mississippi Sheiks' "Sitting On Top Of The World" which is just Eric on slide and Nathan on resonator backing Alicia to provide a downhome acoustic finale to the disc.
This was the first time I had heard Blue Largo and I was very impressed indeed. My next task is to track down the two ear-lier albums to add to my collection!
- John Mitchell
Blue Largo is a Californian band under the joint leadership of vocalist Alicia Aragon and guitarist Eric Lieberman, with members such as saxman Johnny Viau (who first worked with Eric in 1982) and guests like guitarist Nathan James in several roles on six tracks (as well as mixing and co-producing), and Missy Anderson on backing vocals on four. The band has been active since 1999, and they certainly sound like it, in the nicest possible way. You may have heard of them before as pianist Carl Sonny Leyland was a member many years back.
This is their third album and there is a fine early 60s feel to much of the material, from the time when the blues boundary was becoming blurred with R&B and the upcoming sound of soul – think Ray Charles, Rufus Thomas, Sam Cooke, or BB King maybe - with horns driving the tracks along, up tempo or strutting items, sounding a lot like they should be on a vintage juke-box. 'Prisoner Of The Night' and 'Evening' hark back to T-Bone Walker's golden age, whilst Otis Rush's 'You Know My Love' and Magic Sam's 'I Need You So Bad' evoke classic West side Chicago blues, and 'Elevator To The Gallows' is a smoky, jazzy, bluesy tune, with echoes of Billie Holiday, and the standard 'Sittin' on Top Of The World' makes for a lovely closer.
Alicia's excellent vocals are way out front throughout the CD, the seven original songs are thoughtful and enjoyable – try 'Tears Of Joy' - and Eric has overcome some serious health problems that affected his playing to present himself as an economical and very effective guitarist. He takes some very fine instrumental breaks here, and there are three guitar instrumentals, with Earl Hooker's 'Guitar Rhumba' an accomplished version of this little heard showcase; ditto 'Okie Dokie Stomp' from "Gatemouth" Brown and the country styled 'Remington Ride'. In short, this CD is a solid and varied blues set, well worth the effort involved in tracking it down.
- Norman Darwen
Blue Largo was formed in 1999 by guitarist Eric Lieberman and vocalist Alicia Aragon. Primarily focusing on '40s and '50s era blues, the band released a pair of well-received albums in 2000 (What A Day!, produced by Rick Holmstrom) and 2002 (Still In Love With You) and built a large following on the West Coast. In 2006, Lieberman was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition called focal dystonia, which left him unable to play guitar. Over the next 8 1/2 years, he taught himself to play guitar again and soon the band was back in the studio to record their third album, Sing Your Own Song (Coffeegrinds Music).
Where Blue Largo's previous albums focused more on covers of blues classics, this new release features seven Lieberman originals, so the idle time on guitar apparently opened other avenues of expression. This is a good thing because he has blessed us with a strong and varied set of tunes, including "Walkin' On A Tightrope," "Kindness Love and Understanding," "Tears of the Night," "Nothin' To Prove," "Elevator To The Gallows," "Tears of Joy," and the title track. These tunes convey the trials he was going through over the past few years --- the challenges, endurances, hope, and perseverance that he experienced.
The band also offers seven covers, including three instrumentals, Earl Hooker's "Guitar Rhumba," "Okie Dokie Stomp," and "Remington Ride," which show that Lieberman is as great a guitarist as he was before his setback. The other covers are Willie Dixon's "You Know My Love," Magic Sam's "I Need You So Bad," and the standard "Sitting On Top of The World." There's a pretty wide range of blues styles on Sing Your Own Song, and Ms. Aragon shows that she can handle all of them with ease, whether she's presenting the slicker, urban blues or the downhome variety.
The current edition of Blue Largo also includes charter member Jonny Viau (tenor/baritone saxes), Taryn Donath (piano), and Art Kraatz (bass), but other contributors include guitarist Nathan James (who also served as recording engineer and co-producer), drummers Marty Dodson and Ron Felton, bassist Joey Jazdzewski, keyboardist Rafael Salmon, tenor saxophonist Dave Castel de Oro, and backing vocalist Missy Andersen.
Blue Largo makes up for lost time with this excellent release, which should be required listening for fans of the traditional '40s/'50s blues and R&B.
- Graham Clarke
Blue Largo review...November 18, 2015
WALKIN’ ON A TIGHTROPE–KINDNESS LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING–SING YOUR OWN SONG–TEARS OF JOY–GUITAR RHUMBA–PRISONER OF THE NIGHT–EVENING–NOTHIN TO PROVE–YOU KNOW MY LOVE–OKIE DOKIE STOMP–ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS–I NEED YOU SO BAD–REMINGTON RIDE–SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD
California-based Blue Largo consists of vocalist Alicia Aragon and guitarist Eric Leiberman, and they’ve been rockin’ up and down the West Coast since they started playing together in 1999. They also released a couple of well-received albums in 2000 and 2002, but had to cease touring and recording after Eric contracted a rare neurological disorder in 2006, which affected his coordination in his right hand. It took him nearly nine years, but he battled his affliction, and, like a whole lot of us, overcame it, and was playing well enough in May and July of this year to record “Sing Your Own Song”
Blue Largo has always preferred to spread the sounds of Louis Jordan, Billie Holiday, and others from the Forties and Fifties, as opposed to creating their own material. However, during Eric’s recovery, he used his music as a healing poultice, and wrote several originals, seven of which show up on this fine set, produced by Nathan James, who adds guitar on a few cuts. Check out Alicia’s torch-y, jazzy vocals on one of Eric’s originals, where “I don’t need no money nor accolades, all I need is your “Kindness, Love and Understanding!” It features an extended solo from Eric as well.
During his recovery stint, Eric had to “re-learn” how to play guitar, virtually one note at a time. On this set, his perseverance pays off in the form of three difficult instrumentals, Earl Hooker’s “Guitar Rhumba,” Gatemouth’s signature “Okie Dokie Stomp,” and one of our favorite instrumentals of all-time that we first heard by Freddie King, the rolling “Remington Ride,” which Eric blazes thru with ease and authority.
We had several other favorites as well. Alicia gets right down to brass tacks and is “Going down to Louisiana to get me a mojo hand” in “Prisoner Of The Night.” Her spirit-filled vocal turns the title cut into a full-on gospel shouter, and she and Eric close the set on a joyous, Delta-riffic acoustic note, with a playful read of the Sheikhs’ “Sittin On Top Of The World.”
We suppose that Eric Leiberman must feel that he, too, is sitting on top of the world after his physical struggles. He and the extremely-talented Alicia Aragon, as Blue Largo, bring a feeling of hope and redemption to this material, making “Sing Your Own Song” a set to be savored, as a fine wine! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.
BLUE LARGO/Sing Your Own Song
Blue Largo used to be a 40s/50s blues revival band but after being sidetracked by medical issues for a few years, ideas began to pile up between recordings. What a cool result came out of the other end of the tunnel. Front babe Alicia Aragon who sold Dinah, Billie, Bessie et al so convincingly in the past makes the new originals fit in so well you go running for the credits to find out why you don't know these 'classics'. Sultry as ever, with the new edition of the Largos picking up the slack in fine form, this is one of those records that shows the divide between the music business and record business as this is the kind of set for people that want music as opposed to product. Hot stuff that goes the distance from a crew that could easily get you out of the house every night.
- Chris Spector
Sing Your Own Song
While Eric Lieberman is quite a songwriter in his own right, he always preferred to do the songs of old masters from the 40s and 50s, like Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Louis Jordan, T Bone Walker and Julia Lee. On this, the band's third release, half of the tunes are written by Lieberman while the others are covers by old masters like Earl Hooker, Magic Sam, Lonnie Chatmon, Willie Dixon and more. Formed by Lieberman and Alicia Aragon in 1999, health issues ended their short career until recently. Now they are back, this time blowing their own horn so to speak. The work on Sing Your Own Song features Lieberman on guitar, Alicia Aragon on vocals, Jonny Viau (part of the original line-up) on tenor & baritone sax, Marcus Bashore on drums, Taryn Donath on piano and Art Kraatz on bass. Sing Your Own Song was recorded and co-produced by Nathan James and features him on rhythm guitar, resonator guitar and upright bass. It also features Ron Felton & Marty Dodson on drums, Joey Jazdzewski on bass, Rafael Salmon on organ, Dave Castel de Oro on tenor sax and Missy Andersen on backing vocals. Blend blues, R&B, a touch of jazz, soul, gospel and even a bit of pop for a sound that is timeless. Incredibly diverse in style and having a sound that is reminiscent of the 40s and 50s, Blue Largo pulls out all the stops. Through it all they keep it close to the heart. This is deeply rooted in the blues. Like a lot of the material from the folk era, this band borrows elements from so many genres and blends them for a seamless sound that is almost like a soundtrack of our lives over the years. While this might not be blues in its purest form, the elements of blues are evident throughout not only the album as a whole but each and every song. While purist s may shy away, this band has a sound that is cool and refreshing. Known as a traditional 1940's / '50's era blues band, specializing in covers by past masters, Blue Largo pulls out all the stops with this album, playing their own compositions for the most part. Their love for the old styles and the originators of the music is evident from the opening notes to the close. This is one that will be pulled and put in my player fairly often to be sure. Blues In its purest form?...no. Good Music, deeply rooted in the Blues?...You can count on it!
- Bill Wilson
Blue Largo Sing Your Own Song
Blue Largo is guitarist Eric Lieberman and vocalist Alicia Aragon. This San Diego based duo play and sing their own songs mostly written by Lieberman as well as some wonderful covers. Lieberman and Aragon are backed by an all-star, little big band of first call California musicians including sax man Johnny Viau and pianist Taryn Donath. The entire affair was recorded at Nathan James' Sacred Cat Studios in Oceanside. This veteran duo have been on a thirteen year hiatus due to a neurological condition suffered by Lieberman called focal dystonia which kept him from playing the guitar. It is a fascinating story of the triumph of the human spirit which Lieberman details in the CDs liner notes. Their long awaited return to the recording studio has yielded this brand new fourteen track CD which has a big full ensemble sound. It is a rollicking, swinging affair that is simply a lot of fun. It is great to have Eric and Alicia back.
A new CD from Blue Largo called Sing Your Own Song drops Friday...
It's hard to believe it's been 12 years since we've heard new music from Eric Lieberman and Alicia Aragon. Truth be told, it's been worth the wait. Sing Your Own Song is a collection of fourteen recordings that Lieberman says he's "incredibly proud of." Understandable considering half of the project is all new material written by an artist who never thought of himself as a songwriter. That and the fact his friends who just happen to be some of the best musicians in Southern California appear on the CD. Lieberman grins when he admits it made the entire production "more meaningful and personally rewarding than anything we could have imagined."
The obvious question, what took so long? Back in 2006 Eric was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition known as focal dystonia. Refusing to play the "victim" role and, with Alicia by his side, Lieberman has spent the last eight and a half years retraining muscle movements by practicing or playing an average of five hours a day, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. Determination and dedication paid off and Sing Your Own Song is the culmination of those efforts.
From the gospel flavor of the title track, to the screaming sax from Jonny Viau in "Nothin' to Prove," it's storytelling in its purest musical form. Lieberman breaks out the slide and Nathan James shines on his resonator as the CD comes full circle and ends with a satisfying, good-time blues romp, the Vinson-Chatmon classic "Sittin' on Top of the World." Recorded in just four days at Sacred Cat Studios earlier this summer, the entire production gives listeners a glimpse into the endless possibilities when an artist refuses to give up or give in.
Check out Blue Largo at the Sing Your Own Song CD release party happening Friday September 18th at Tio Leo's. Showtime is 8pm and there's no cover, so put on your party shoes.
- Tim Mattox
Blue Largo CD Release Party at Tio Leo's
SAN DIEGO, September 18th -The room was packed with fans, friends, musicians and dancers at Tio Leo's for Blue Largo's CD release. Many of the musicians who contributed to this labor of love were on stage including Jonny Viau on sax and percussions, Rafael Salmon on organ, Dave Castel De Oro on sax, Marcos B. Bashore on drums, Art Kraatz on upright bass, Taryn Donath on piano and Nathan James on guitar. Ruby Presnell made a special appearance lending her grace and beauty and talent to the show with a little bit of rumba and jazz. The stars of the evening were definitely Eric Lieberman and Alicia Aragon who together are the cornerstone of this much loved band. The dance floor was constantly all in motion for every jump blues, jazz and swing tune played this amazing night.
- Eli Medellin
"Still In Love With You"
Based in San Diego, Blue Largo plays the blues that we've grown up with and don't ever want to forget. Favorites such as "Rose Room," "Lover Man," "I've Got You Under My Skin" and "How Deep Is The Ocean" are always welcome. Guitarist Eric Lieberman and vocalist Alicia Aragon interpret them with a subtle passion that can only be found in the blues. What they feel night after night on Southland gigs comes through loud and clear to establish a firm bond between our generations and folks like Ruth Brown, T-Bone Walker, Louis Jordan, Johnny Otis and Dinah Washington.
Aragon and Lieberman have added several originals to their second album, which - by the way - deserves a nomination for this year's ten-best list. "No Denyin'," "Ain't Gonna Compromise" and "Sugar Baby" capture the heart and soul of New Orleans and echo the influence that spread rapidly from the Mississippi Delta all over the world. Reflecting the magic that we recall from the early Nat King Cole Trio, Aragon delivers "Besame Mucho" in a moving rendition that oozes that universal spirit. For that one, Neal Wauchope contributes exciting piano work to wrap it all together.
Blue Largo has covered all the bases, from slow blues anthems by Leonard Feather and Julia Lee to classics by Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. Standout instrumental work from baritone saxophonist Troy Jennings, pianist Sonny Leyland, bassist Christopher Michaels and drummer Phil Rowley adds a strong measure of professional charm. The band accomplishes both a swing revival and an original expression of the love we share for the blues.
- Jim Santella
Still In Love With You, the second releas from California's Blue Largo, works a considerably more uptown vein, paying tribute to jazz and blues artists from the '40's and '50's by recording standards and blues like "I've Got You Under My Skin", "Baby Get Lost", Johnny Otis' "Feel Like Cryin' Again" and "Beseme Much". The group has the right feel, built up from the sublime rhythm section of Phil Rowley and Chris Michaels. Special mention must go to the piano players, Sonny Leyland and Neal Wauchope. The horn charts work well, and hats off to main man, guitarist Eric Lieberman, for on-the--spot rhythms and clean lead work. Alicia Aragon's vocals conjure smoky clubs, tuxedos and evening gowns.
- Ed Ivey, Blues Bites
"Still In Love With You"
This San Diego band's reverence for the blues of the '30s and '40s is unsurpassed. And it's displayed in every note here. Mastermind Eric Lieberman is a passionate devotee of an era where songs by Cole Porter and Irving Berlin crisscrossed with the styles of T-Bone Walker and Johnny Otis. Lieberman is a student of blues guitar, and he shows that in each and every song, never wasting a single note.
Singer Alicia Aragon has never sounded better, and horn partners Jonny Viau, Troy Jennings and Robbie Smith are impeccably in-step. Keyboard players Sonny Leyland and Neal Wauchope, drummer Phil Rowley and bassist Christopher Michaels hold the beat in the framework intended.
- Michael Kinsman
Blue Largo performs timeless music that was introduced throughout a century that witnessed the development of jazz, blues, boogie-woogie, swing and jump blues. Guitarist Eric Lieberman has been a driving force on the Southern California blues scene for nearly twenty years. Early on, he led the Rhumboogies and Juke Stompers, co-led 47 Combo, and then organized Blue Largo in 1999. The ensemble includes sultry vocalist Alicia Aragon, soulful tenor saxophonist Jonny Viau, rollicking pianist Sue Palmer, and the ever-tasteful stability of rhythm-mates Roger Daschle on upright bass & Phil Rowley on drums.
Lieberman and Aragon lead Blue Largo with veteran expressiveness and a sincere interpretation. Their debut album includes nods to most of their primary influences. Billie Holiday's soulful ballad, "Fine and Mellow," recalls vocal history while infusing superb instrumental solo work by Lieberman and Viau. Nat King Cole's "Pitchin' Up a Boogie" reflects on a bygone era of relaxed swing. Aragon's interpretation of the ballad, "One for my Baby (and One More for the Road)," brings out the intended emotion while introducing impressive trumpet work by Robbie Smith. The singer is at her best on "Fat Daddy," where she seems to pick up extra inspiration for her storytellin' approach to a rock & roll arrangement. Aragon's distinctive way with words makes it fit.
Three instrumental numbers feature Lieberman's guitar. Tight horns and a dripping-wet tenor solo make Bill Doggett's "Honky Tonk" ooze with a universal spirit. T-Bone Walker's "Strollin' with Bone" and a slow, expressive "Sweet and Lovely" allow Lieberman's vocal guitar style to take center stage. Other San Diego area guests round out the session. Eddie Croft's tenor sax solo on Benny Goodman's "Swing Brother Swing" bounces lightly with expression. Similarly, Troy Jennings' baritone sax solo on Julia Lee's blues, "If It's Good," proves light and fluid. Audio clips of Blue Largo's music are available from www.bluelargoblues.com. The band's contact number is (858)550-0313.
- Jim Santella
Blue neon filtered through a smoky haze, velvet-lined booths, oh-so-dry martinis, a lipstick-on-the-collar midnight sojourn for the lovelorn — San Diego retro-swingers Blue Largo paint their musical picture so clearly you can smell the Naugahyde and sweet dancefloor sweat on What a Day! (self-release). Alicia Aragon carries the vocal torch lovingly, with guitarist Eric Lieberman and a host of great side players laying out the dance-hall grind. Billie Holiday's "Fine and Mellow" is exquisitely covered. Best Cut: "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)"; Aragon's languid lyrics and jazzy vibrato are charming.
- Ed Ivey, Blues Bites
Blue Largo is a blues band. Well, it's jazz, really. But it's Swing too... Oh hell, it's all three rolled up in an old-timey homage to genre heros past. What a Day! includes lesser-known works from iconic songbirds like Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, and electric-blues pioneer, T-Bone Walker.
The members of Blue Largo are obviously realists, and have rendered these songs in their intended form, rather than trying to deconstruct and reinterpret them. Alicia Aragon's vocals conjure Holiday, especially on the slow-tempo blues grooves, "Fine and Mellow" and "Love Me or Leave Me." The pace picks up with the title track and "If It's Good," two swingin' numbers that yearn to get the boogie on.
The album features some of San Diego's finest musicians: tenor saxophonist, Jonny Viau; pianist, Sue Palmer; and guitarist, Eric Lieberman, a long-time veteran of the local blues scene. Each one takes a solo on Pitchin' Up a Boogie" and "Honky Tonk," but there are no time-hogging prima donnas here. That's the true sign of a good jazz or blues band — each instrument is considered equally important to the whole composition. Although What a Day! doesn't contain any original material, it's worth listening to for the sheer talent and enthusiasm of this contemporary band.
- Jennifer DeGroot, Slamm Magazine
CD review: Blue Largo Featuring Alicia Aragon & Eric Lieberman, What a Day! Coffeegrinds Records
Versions, versions, versions!
Real nice version of "Five, Ten, Fifteen Hours," the old Ruth Brown hit.
Dandy version of Billie Holiday's "Fine and Mellow."
Fine-is-not-the-word version of "Sweet and Lovely."
Not-half-bad version of Bill Doggett's "Honky Tonk."
Not the worst version ever of T-Bone Walker's "Strollin' with Bone."
As swell a version as one could possibly expect of "You Came a Long Way from St. Louis," which Shel Silverstein used to claim HE wrote (though the credits here read: Brooks/Russell).
Fab-to-say-the-least version of Helen Humes's "Ain't Gonna Quit You Baby," not to be confused with Otis Rush's "Can't Quit You Baby."
Really decent version of "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)."
All or many featuring the bang-up tenor sax of Jonny (don't spell it "Johnny") Viau.
- Richard Meltzer
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