Having come of age during the blues revival years in the 1960s, a period that saw him working alongside greats like Big Joe Turner and T-Bone Walker, Rod Piazza could be forgiven for keeping a tight focus on the classic urban Chicago sound.
Instead, over a three-decade-long career, he’s stirred in heaping helpings of West Coast swing, giving his music a lasting genre-jumping appeal. Emergency Situation, Piazza’s first original album for Blind Pig since 2004’s Keepin’ It Real, is no different. A restless delight, the album — just like Piazza himself — never stays in one place for long.
“Neighbor Neighbor” jumps and wails, while the title track unleashes a squalling menace. Amos Milburn’s “Milk and Water” is, as expected, a heel-clicking hoot, even as “Bad Weather Blues” rolls in like a purpled, rain-swollen cloud front. “Gambling Woman” skips, while “Sleeping in the Ground” — a deeply underrated gem from Sweet Sam Myers — crackles with danger.
And so it goes, as Piazza moves between these two seemingly disparate worlds with ease, making never-before-heard connections with each ferocious harp blast. “Tricky Woman” is as complex as its name suggests, while Lee Dorsey’s “Ya Ya” unfolds with a merry hipness. Finally, there’s “Colored Salt,” which begins with a breathy solo before launching into one final muscular groove to set things right.
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