Now Playing: Tony Campanella’s ‘Taking It To The Street’

Image courtesy of Tony Campanella

Singer-songwriter and guitarist Tony Campanella learned from some of the greats. After working in the industry for a quarter of a century, he is “taking it to the street” with his aptly named premiere platter, Taking It To The Street. But first, for those not familiar with the artist in question, a bit o’ background.

Tony Campanella

Image courtesy of Blueberry Hill

Tony Campanella is a St. Louis-based singer-songwriter, and guitarist. Indeed, some sources say he’s one of the best guitarists in the city. He has opened for such performers as Deep Purple, Robin Trower, Etta James, Koko Taylor, Wayne Shepherd, and Bernard Allison.

Campanella has learned a lot from all of the St. Louis legends including Bennie Smith, Henry Townsend, Lonnie Johnson, Big George Brock, Marcel Strong, Tommy Bankhead, and several others. His signature sound is a blend of blues-rock, classic and contemporary blues.

Taking It To The Street

Image courtesy of Tony Campanella

Taking It To The Street is the blues artist’s debut disc. On it, Campanella leads the way on guitar and vocals. He is backed by an assortment of other artists including

Terry Dry (bass), Matt Johnson (drums), Lewis Stephens (piano, organ, and Wurlitzer), and producer Mike Zito (rhythm and slide guitar). The music here is a memorable mix of blues bits including nigh funky R&B, upbeat shuffles, and kickback twelve-bars.

Track by track

The 11-track CD opens on the no-nonsense titular “Taking It To The Street” which was written by Zito. It’s highlighted by some guitar riffs vaguely reminiscent of Thin Lizzy. Regardless of it being a Zito composition, it serves quite well as Campanella’s personal intro when he sings “I’ve had these blues since I was a little boy. I’ve been playing this here guitar since it was my only toy.”

The second selection is “Pack It Up.” It provides new listeners with their first intro to Campanella’s work as a songwriter.

Things slow down a bit with the soulful “One Foot In The Blues.” This slow blues number unfolds excellently.

Things pick up again with “You Don’t Know.” It’s one more original before Campanella works back into some classic covers.

“Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” is the first of two Sonny Boy Williamson standards included here.  It’s always good to include something people know on an introductory offering.  It probably works even better performed live at a club.

He expertly moves on to Albert King’s “Finger On The Trigger” which makes it quite clear that he has not only a significant history with the music but an honest love of the genre as well.

He follows up with his clever cover of Eddie Vincent’s “Mr. Cleanhead” which tells the humorous tuneful tale of a guy who refuses to let his lack of locks stunt his success with the gals.

“Checking On My Baby” is his second serving of Sonny Boy Williamson. In fact, he manages to make it his own while staying true to the original cut.

“Texas Chainsaw” is a moody song written by Guy Hale and Zito. It’s a stand-alone track that probably massacres live audiences. It’s dirty blues that is both a tribute to his St. Louis roots and Lone Star state fans.

“My Motor’s Running” is another Hale-Zito collaboration. It seems written for Campanella as he easily owns it.

The romantic “Those Are The Times” is one final example of Campanella’s songwriting abilities. It’s a slow blues cut that is somehow similar to something by B.B. King.  Additionally. the song is both familiar and yet unique.

Overall, the album is a fine example of the artist’s blues education and inspirations. It includes classic covers, contemporary covers, and some of Campanella’s own original compositions. So check out Tony Campanella’s Taking It To The Street because, well, “You Don’t Know” what you’re missing.