One of those good people is a transplanted Philadelphian who reps a variety of good artists. Thanks to this person, whom I’ll call Double-D, I’ve been turned on to some great music and more than a few great artists. Double-D checks in with me frequently and has become a good friend above and beyond the siren song of the music.
Recently Double-D sent me a new group, The Head Honchos, out of Indiana and their first album, Bring It On Home. Trouble is, it came in as an electronic file, and as many of you know, my ability with computers lies more in the psychology of the human-machine paradigm that actually knowing how to run one of the damn things.
Fortunately, I was able to figure out how to listen to the album, and it’s a good thing I did, because it is a hard rocking blues album – and while that’s not usually my strong suit, I found that the group, which is comprised of the father and son guitar team of Rocco Calipari Sr. and Jr.; Roberto Agosto and C.C. Copeland split time on bass; and Scott Schultz on drums.
Special guests on this album include Steve Bell on keys; Phil Smith on additional percussion; Jo Jo Dotlich on harp; Joe J. Brown on sax; and Mitch Goldman on trumpet.
The album starts off at a blistering pace with the pounding high energy of Not For Me. This song is one for the heavy rock blues fans with some solid guitar runs and heavy percussion taking over the breaks. It’s doubtful that the classic blues lovers will embrace but for those that love over the top rock mixed with their blues, buckle in, it’s going to be a wild ride.
The Honchos get funky with the next number. Old And Tired has got a solid rock beat that reminds me of late ‘70’s works that dropped in a little dance beat to go with the rock. While hard rock blues is generally not my cup of tea, the younger listeners that I shared this with were breaking into spontaneous air-guitar demonstrations.
Next up is a quick, almost punk rock energetic son titled Work. Few truer words than “Everybody’s got to work for a living” have been spoken. Or in this case, sung. By now the traditional blues fans may have moved on leaving the rest of the album for those who love the harder edged material. Good song and impressive in its attitude.
The band brings the tempo down to 11 with Come Strong. It’s a powerful song, almost a ballad in comparison to the first few numbers. One thing that is truly impressive is Schultz’ percussion and Calipari père et fils‘ guitar. Both are tightly controlled but give the impression that they could veer off into the stratosphere without notice. Nice trick.
Next To You brings out a little funk along with some solid guitar licks. It’s easy to see why The Head Honchos have invited comparisons to the likes of Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan. While that’s mighty lofty company to hang with, they deserve the praise. This is another good time dance inducing number that has got to be a crowd pleaser live.
They follow up with a smoking track. Mean Old World showcases some sweet guitar runs and this is the kind of song that blues rock fans grab onto and play over and over. I admit that this is my favorite song off the album so far. It’s blues enough to make you happy with a rock edge that’s reminiscent of some of Gary Moore’s work and I’ve always enjoyed his approach.
There’s some nice keyboard work on Fire On The Bayou, another song with the intensity turned up way past 11. It has a ton of energy and attitude and this one, along with the previous track should be getting some serious airplay. I would love to catch this one live, just to see the interplay between the band members. They trade licks like the best jazz bands and that’s pretty high praise.
The opening of Lucky’s Train is one that sucks you into the song quickly and appeases my blues loving heart. Unfortunately for producers of blues terrestrial radio shows, there’s a phrase (“shit-eating grin”) that might limit air play. Shame, because the song rocks, and features some nice harp work by Jo Jo Dotlich.
The drive keeps going with the next number, Whiskey Devil. I’ve met that devil on a few occasions and this song brings back memories of many a lost night. I like this song a lot and it truly packs a punch. They follow up with the aptly named That Driving Beat. The beat does drive and it drives hard. It would be hard to pass on getting out of your seat and hitting the dance floor on this one.
The Honchos slow things down a little for 99 1/2 Won’t Do. It’s a ballad but on their own terms, nothing too slow and sentimental and with some killer guitar licks. Listening to this group, you might have to go way back to find two such accomplished guitarists in the same band. For six string fans, this album has been a treat.
Things don’t slow down for long as the Honchos kick into overdrive on Going Down. This is vintage Allman Brothers sounding and they nail it from the first lick through the entire song. Very good song and one that should also get airplay.
The album closes with a seven-minute jam on Soul Free. Coupled with the previous track cements my opinion that they favorably compare with the Allmans. This is a lovely anthem that is a great closer and showcases the bands prodigious talents.
If you don’t get out to The Head Honchos’ home in Indiana very much, you might have to make a trip to the Hoosier State in order to catch them live. Probably not for long however as news of this strong album moves out to the rest of the world. I can easily see them playing major festivals and converting new fans the way that Bring It On Home converted me.