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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