Fabrizio Poggi, For You, Appaloosa Records
For You is Italian blues harp player, Fabrizio Poggi’s 23rd album. The Grammy-nominated Poggi has shared stages with numerous top blues artists all over the world, including The Blind Boys of Alabama, Eric Bibb, Sonny Landreth, Ruthie Foster and John Hammond. For You is a remarkably sensitive and inspirational work of gospel blues which draws you in magnetically and keeps you in wonder throughout the ten tracks of mostly traditional songs.
The liner notes say it’s an album “for you, for us, for everyone,” and clearly is designed to be an album for this present moment, when the whole world is reeling in the current health crisis. Fabrizio says that “together we can make it,” and that the music is “for those who feel lost when the wind of life blows too strong…for all those who are worried, who feel lonely and lost.” The songs, with their spiritual nature, are indeed songs of succour, of hope, of encouragement.
And, although these are songs you may be very familiar with, they’re brilliantly arranged and performed, with unexpected jazz and world music elements popping up to join the bluesy feel of the songs. Stefano Spina, who was the sound engineer on Poggi and Guy Davis’s 2017 Grammy nominated album which pays tribute to Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, has done a superb job, not only producing the album, but arranging the songs. (He also plays various instruments, including drums and keyboards).
The band on the album is superb and consists of Tito Mangialajo Rantzer on double bass, Enrico Polverari and Giampiero Spina on guitars, Pee Wee Durante on organ, Tullio Ricci on saxophone, Luca Calabrese on trumpet and Stefano Intelisano on piano. Arsene Duevi, vocals and guitar.
For You kicks off with the defiant Keep On Walkin’, with an unusual jazz arrangement, including some juicy work from the saxophone and trumpet. If These Wings starts mysteriously with the trumpet echoing in the background. It’s actually a much-changed version of Brother Claude Ely’s Ain’t No Grave Can Hold My Body Down, and Poggi’s well-phrased and earnest vocals combine superbly with the muted trumpet to strike a note of defiant hope.
Sweet Chariot swings into action with a throbbing double bass and is joined by Fabrizio Poggi’s harmonica, adding a lovely bluesy feel to this traditional spiritual. Poggi is a very accomplished harmonica player and one of Europe’s finest exponents of the blues. He also has a Hohner Lifetime Award, and has been twice a Blues Music Awards nominee, so we’d expect the harp work to be of a high calibre.
And it is. It fairly rocks in the upbeat Don’t Get Worried, tugs at the heart strings on the beautiful version of Eric Bibbs’ For You, and gets down and dirty on Just Love.
Throughout, Poggi handles the vocals with some aplomb – he’s an accomplished singer, as well as harp player.
There are two songs written by Fabrizio Poggi and another co-written with Stefano Spina. The beautiful My Name Is Earth, with its choir sounds, keyboards and trumpet all combined to great effect, is a paean to our planet and a stand-out song. Sweet Jesus is a joyful song of praise, again with Poggi’s harp complimenting his heartfelt singing.
The album closes with another thoughtful, hopeful song, It’s Not Too Late, with Fabrizio telling us, “we can change the world.”
Well, I think, we’d say Amen to that. And with music this inspirational to urge us on, just maybe we can.