Reviewed by Henry L. Carrigan Jr.
Michael Dinallo knows good sounds when he hears them, and he's been the force behind making sure some of those sounds are heard. He's a world-class producer who's produced Stax Records' legend Eddie Floyd, produced the acclaimed tribute album to Charlie Rich, "Feel Like Going Home: The Songs of Charlie Rich" and he was the force propelling Boston bands The Radio Kings and The Mercy Brothers.
Dinallo steps from behind the boards on his first solo album, and we wonder what took him so long. He's a mesmerizing guitarist who can lay down some tasty Southern rock licks ("Mr. Johnson") or deliver twangy rockabilly riffs ("Bluebonnet Lullaby") or some slow acoustic folk blues ("Tennessee Blues"). Joining Dinallo album are Boston players Tim Gearan on vocals and guitars, Kevin Barry on guitars, John Packer on bass, Marty Richards and Ducky Carlisle on drums; Barrence Whitfield - the two used to play together - stops by to sing on two songs.
The slow-burning rockabilly blues instrumental "Bluebonnet Lullaby" finds Dinallo opening the lead-off song with a spare guitar riff over the first four bars, and then the rest of the band lays layer upon layer of rich sound on top of his hypnotic licks. Reminiscent of "Theme from a Summer Place," "Bluebonnet Lullaby" is a perfect movie theme song, and maybe just the right tune for the Texas state song, if Texas were more laid back.
Dinallo delivers some Johnny Cash riffs joined with the twangy licks of Dick Dale and Dale Watson to open a sprightly take on the traditional "Lonesome Road Blues"; Dinallo's version will have you dancing along, even as you're "going down the road feeling bad." Dinallo's mournful version of the traditional "In the Pines" features Gearan's lowdown blues vocals, lending the swampy, can't-get-no-lower vibes to the New Orleans bass drum beating out the hollow emptiness of the pine woods.
>Whitfield lends his vocals to "Mr. Johnson" and "Waiting for a Better Day," weaving around somber acoustic guitars. The latter especially casts a haunting spell on the listener with its message of hope for the downtrodden and neglected in a society that casts them aside. Dinallo closes with a straight-ahead acoustic blues, "Tennessee Blues," that belongs in any juke joint.
"Crooked Road Songs" leaves us wanting more from Dinallo. He's at home in any kind of music, and his stellar guitar playing puts him in that class of guitarists that includes Vince Gill, Robert Cray, Dale Watson, Duane Allman and Danny Flowers who never waste a note and possess the just-right phrasing for any song they touch. This small masterpiece of an EP delivers the promise of the kind of musical portraits Dinallo can paint on a larger canvas.