REVIEW: John Fusco & The Road Riders’ “John the Revelator” Double Album is Swampy, Eerie, Humid Tones


John Fusco & The Road Riders – John the Revelator – Double Album

In 1998 Mercury Records issued an LP called Largo, — filled with exceptional songs performed by dynamic artists from many genres. Pop singer Cyndi Lauper & Joan Osborne besides veterans from The Band. NYC rocker Willie Nile & roots artist Taj Mahal. Not since then have I come across a collection as invigorating, authentic & riveting until…

I listened to Vermont bluesman John Fusco & The Road Riders 20-track double LP John The Revelator (Drops July 31st – Checkerboard Lounge). The music starts with the traditional title cut drenched in swampy, eerie, humid tones. The music coagulates instantly. The cut starts silently until a Godzilla beat like-walk thuds in creepy as hell. The ghostly voice of Risse Norman grips the throat like a green-eyed voodoo goddess. Then, the ripple jazz guitar of George Walker Petit’s application spreads & Fusco’s smoky vocal conjures a magical scary delightful tale through the Delta blues. Impressive. 

Along with John (Hammond B1/piano/acoustic guitar) & Risse are Cody Dickinson (drums/bass/guitars/dobro/electric washboard) & Sarah ‘the Bone Doctor’ Morrow (trombone).

Each cut is impeccably arranged with atmosphere & mood. It borders at suggesting what Tom Waits might sound like if he was wholly dedicated to a Delta-blues hoodoo. Even (“Bone Deep”) with its heavy Howlin’ Wolf punchy approach is chilling & chillier when Risse’s vocal accentuates the bluesy weight of Fusco’s excellent rendering. On this John’s Hammond B3 & Magic Mark Lavoie’s harmonica bristle.

Sarah’s trombone bellows deep on “It Takes a Man,” & “Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing,” — soul tunes solid in the old Stax tradition. It’s all fried greasy & tasty on both sides. What’s reminiscent on many tracks are the bits & pieces of the finest moments of Delaney & Bonnie (Bramlett), The Band, & Elton John (“Tumbleweed Connection,” era).

What’s also good are the instrumentalists – fiddler Patrick Ross (“Applejack Brandy”) & the well-written lyrics that could’ve been just simplistic generic toss offs. They’re not. The tunes have a lasting sense of personality.

“Why You Chose Me,” – I can “hear” The Band’s Levon Helm sing this with Fusco. “Bad Dog,” reeks of a dark blues memorable of the late deep growly voiced fiery lead guitarist John Campbell who managed 2 great LPs (with tunes like “Tiny Coffin”).

CD 2 is the weaker of the showcases, but there are jewels nonetheless: A Buddy Miller-John Mellencamp styled “Song for Peter” is a cool song. The trombone heavy “Hottest Part of the Flame,” (John Mayall used to do this when he added Chris Barber to his unit) marries up to a hot lead guitar. Works nicely.

“Good Money After Bad,” (a tinge of the memorable notes from Elvis’ Leiber-Stoller “Trouble,”). Easily digested soul rocker. But it’s that trombone that has the pulsing throb of the song. “The Sun Also Rises,” closes on a good strong authoritative note. There are many notable musicians too numerous to mention that turn in exemplary performances.

CD 1 @ 45 minutes & CD 2 @ 47 minutes. Both produced by Cody Dickinson with George Walker & Mary Lindsey Dickinson. Will be available at Amazon. 


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