REVIEW: Domenic Cicala “Come On Over: The Honky Tonk Duets” Was Worth the Wait

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Domenic Cicala – Come On Over – The Honky Tonk Duets

I must admit I expected to hear some droll country or corny songs but the lead-off track was the late Tom Jans 1973 chestnut “Loving Arms.” Covered by everyone from Elvis Presley to Dobie Gray, from Olivia Newton-John to Greek legend Demis Roussos.

Yet, independent Washington, D.C. artist Domenic Cicala unleashes an absolutely beautiful version with Michelle Hannan on his latest 9-cut all-covers LP Come On Over – The Honky Tonk Duets (Tortured Artists Records – Dropped Feb. 12).

The tonality of their voices is all sincerity, poignancy & not done with wringing out tears as much as succeeding in making one just stop to appreciate the words & melody with no fluff.

Cicala continues with BettySoo on the Dave Alvin-Rosie Flores’ tune “Goodbye Again” with a touch of Spanish guitar & horns. Laidback into a mood of emotionalism few singers are capable of. They sing wonderfully together. Soo has that satiny vocal often found on songs by Allison Krauss – it’s all here.

The LP took 3 years to plan & execute. It was worth the wait. There are no embellishments, showboating – the songs are played with relaxed precision & a pound of feeling. Exemplified by “I Want Out,” a driving country tune sung with enthusiasm by Dominic & Rachel Harrington.

All the musicians are adept at shaping a vintage style of performance on each cut that works well with every song. The steel guitar is especially strong. There isn’t a weak tune among the 9. But it’s the female vocalists who are all perfectly suited to Cicala’s vocals, arrangements & they each have a personality.

Musicians: Gary Ferguson (guitars/mandolin), Lynn Kasdorf (steel guitar), Mark Noone (bass, guitar, baritone guitar), Ben Holmes & Jack O’Dell (drums), Moe Nelson (acoustic bass), & Bill Starks (piano).

Mindy Miller duets with Dominic on Donnie Fritts’ “We Had It All” – as strong as John Prine & Bonnie Raitt’s duet on “Angel from Montgomery.” It’s that good.

Jaimee Harris is another perfect voice on “If Only You Were Mine.” These are all little sparkling songs rendered with perfection. Harris’ voice is attractive in a manner that recalls the 60s hit country-pop singers: Diane Renay’s (“Navy Blue”), Jody Miller (“Silver Threads & Golden Needles”) & Sandy Posey (“Singe Girl”). Delightful.

Most of the ladies get an opportunity to duet twice with Cicala. At no time does Dominic overpower his guests – he consistently showcases his partners respectfully front & center. Closing the LP is a Gibb Brothers (Bee Gees) song “Come On Over,” with Ms. Harrington & the classic Townes van Zandt song “If I Needed You,” with Janine Wilson. All beautiful, with gentle steel guitar & mandolin.

Produced by Mark Noone, Steve Carr & Dominic, it’s clearly a well-recorded, entertaining 35-minute CD. The performances are solid throughout. This is quite enjoyable.

Available at https://domeniccicala.com/track/2576651/come-on-over

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