Local artist Ed Randazzo performs at Tripp House in Scranton. Photo by Lynn Vala

Striking out on one’s own can be harrowing.  No one knows that better than I.  No longer do I have the syndication, the music stores to cover my ass should I foul up (which I do often, not getting into details).  But the inverse side of that coin is, I no longer have those same sources of “protection” telling me to keep it at any particular level, to direct sales to their outlets, to “leave the acts without a record contract alone, there’s no money in that for us”.  That means, if I want to cover my former fellow band mates in their current endeavors, I have full license to do so.  If a promoter sends me a press release and it redirects me to a CDBaby page, I no longer have to edit that out!!!  I love the people at CDBaby, they are a bastion of light in an industry of filth, corruption and darkness.  There is only one other label that BouleBlog will endorse, that being Robert Fripp’s InnerKnot.  But there is something I love more than those labels…

I love local!!  I began covering the “established” music scene about five years ago.  But even those established artists had to start somewhere.  Their own local scene.  So why not cover where I came to musical “prominence”?  My local scene…

Or, perhaps more appropriately, my roots!

Scranton is the scene, Tripp House is the place.  I am able to have my finger on the pulse of local music with the help of the social phenomenon that is Facebook.  If used properly, Facebook can be a useful tool in communication, connection and promotion of music.  More often than not, however it is misused.  Are our friends really interested in the last time you and your kids went to McDonald’s?  If they are, they need lives.

A correct use of Facebook allowed me to connect with a local musician by the name of Eddie Randazzo.  Other than meeting through a mutual admiration of music, I have no idea where Randazzo came from.  I would like to watch where he goes, if there is any justice, a talent like this should be signed to InnerKnot, or at least have products on CDBaby.  But Mr. Randazzo is taking the smart route.  You can purchase hard copies of his products at (recommended) www.edrandazzomusic.comor, if you are local to BouleBlog central (Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, US) a local indie record store chain by the name of Joe Nardone’s Gallery Of Sound.  For those of you who feel burdened by material objects such as CD jewel cases, digital copies can be had at iTunes and Amazon.  If you happen to be fortunate enough to catch Randazzo at a show, you may find some instant gratification.

Some of the best music can be found at your favorite artist’s website or shows. For those that don’t know, buying CDs at either of the perviously mentioned outlets provide said artists with the greatest ratio of direct profit. Photo by Lynn Vala

Dear readers, you have no idea, the liberation that last paragraph has brought me!  Fulfillment, pride, honor, I truly feel that being able to support local musicians at the level they function is beyond inspiring.

I was invited by Delores of Poconotes to stay for the main attraction, another Roots/Blues/Americana act, Spencer Bohren.

Pat (left) and Delores (right) of Poconotes regale and detail the forthcoming events of the evening. Photo by Lynn Vala

What’s with me and all the Roots music lately?  Me, Mr. Joe Progressive???

But, in all fairness, I simply cannot stay for the main act, Mr. Bohren.  I am unfamiliar with his music, and after attempting to cover Sam Llanas without being better prepared, I do not want to make those same mistakes again.  When I review local acts, it can be based solely on ability.  But an act of national prominence can not simply rely on what I find enjoyable.  Not to mention that I have been so taken by Mr. Llanas’ music, I am afraid anything I might write about Mr. Bohren would be tainted by that impression.

Hey, I said my promotion of local artists was fulfilling, I didn’t say anything about it being unbiased.  It IS my opinion…

Back to the show…

After some impromptu sound checking and tuning the affair begins.  We are welcomed by Poconotes representatives Delores and Pat, who after explaining the origins of the booking, read an appropriate Margaret Mead poem.  I should not be so dismissive, we are spreading our metaphorical wings by doing a play review next.  Why would a music reviewer cover an off-braodway play?  Hint: Music by Sam Llanas…

The music of the evening begins with Randazzo and his musical accompanist Bret Alexander begin the night with “Who’s That Man?” which I am relieved is NOT the Todd Rundgren song, but rather an original composition by Randazzo.  Unlike the Rundgren song of betrayal, Randazzo’s song is more self-assurance.  He looks in the mirror, sees himself, and proclaims affirmation at his identity.  A positive opener, way to set the tone!

Let’s talk tone…

Here is this admittedly shorter, leaner gentleman with a tremendous, booming voice!!  A baritone that might be more appropriate extruding from out of a much more stout gentlemen twice Mr. Randazzo’s age.  For his tender years, his soul has experienced seemingly three lifetimes.

The song asks who is Eddie?  With the above descriptive, why is he questioning himself?  Randazzo’s voice keeps it full, even while Alexander produces notes as opposed to chords.  They have the skills…

Beneath the glow of that annoying red atmospheric light, Bret Alexander (left) and Ed Randazzo (right) boom the blues at the packed crowd at Tripp House. Photo by Lynn Vala

A spirited riff starts off “Let Me Go”, but that quickly evolves into a chromatic descend into the bridge/chorus.  This song is moving way faster than I can take notes.  But Alexander is a master at time-keeping.  They modulate for a vocal ad-lib.

A song of anguish, “love killer, heart stealer”, not for the romantically squeamish…

They end this torch song by “making the night go black by stealing the stars from the sky”.  No way Randazzo has been burned by love?  NAH!!!

Next up is an amusing mini-medley.  The first of the dual tune is the cover from 1986, “Missionary Man”.  Gutsy, he starts it off A capella, but even as Alexander joins in, Randazzo’s timbre cuts through the room.  Alexander makes sure not to step on Randazzo’s vocal.  Look up the dictionary definition of accomplish accompanist and you will see Alexander’s picture.

Accomplished acoustic accompanist Alexander amazes and astounds… Photo by Lynn Vala

There are the double entendres o’plenty, “born an original sinner” and even the title, “missionary man” but double entendres are a part of a long line of musical lyrical history.  There was even a genre built on the double entendre, it’s called rock and roll..

If I had to pick it apart, I could say Alexander downplays his chance to solo.  But one has to keep in mind, this is Roots/Americana music.  Less is more.  Besides that, this isn’t about Alexander, it’s about the voice.  Alexander knows his job is to compliment, not hog the limelight.  He also knows he’s not in the role of a Joe Satriani, Steve Vai…

They segue into the children’s classic “This Old Man”.  The kiddies won’t be sleeping in this room anytime soon.  It’s tough to sleep with all that booming coming from Randazzo’s mouth!  Amazing baritone.  The segue in was a little bumpy, but the segue back into “Missionary Man” makes up for it and makes you forget about the first segue, but the tight-drum ending comes right away.

The duo return to original music with a finger-picked intro to “House On The Hill” for Renee.  Alexander plays off the melody as Randazzo undercuts it with his beefy tone.  This song is prime example of Randazzo’s ability to work a metaphor; a life dilapidated, perhaps?  A love unrequited, maybe?  A world in decline, possibly?  Many possible meanings in that “House On The Hill”.

Maybe my lost musical soul belongs in roots music?  The genre has certainly been more ingratiating.

Alexander’s finger-picked solo is a lovely counter point to the heart-wrenching “unwelcome sign” analogy.  One thing I am not used to, is the short nature of Roots-style music.  It’s easier to take notes during ten-minute prog tunes…

Delores comments on Randazzo’s shirt.  Randazzo retaliates about the coziness of The Tripp House.  Alexander agrees.

Next up is an 18thCentury Hymn brought to his attention by former 10,000 Maniacs front-person Natalie Merchant.  “Weeping Pilgrim” is presented A capella by Randazzo, which, as every performer knows, can be a dicey gamble, and unfortunately, Randazzo comes up a little sharp on some notes in the beginning.  But apparently (me being new to Roots music) there is a lot of A capella in the genre.

Slight of build, don’t let that fool you! Randazzo has pipes and baritone to spare! Photo by Lynn Vala

For “Ring Them Bells”, Alexander dons a mandolin and hopes he’s in tune.  He is, and the mandolin, with its higher timbre, compliments Randazzo’s low-end tone, as does Alexander’s own voice as he joins in on backing vocals.  Good thing as Randazzo drops the vocal line going into the second (I believe it is the) chorus.  Again, short but soulful and macabre.

One thing I do like about Roots music is the macabre nature of many of the topics in the lyrics.  For example, the title track to Randazzo’s 2009 release “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” is next, and from that title, you can see my point.  But this track features a very ‘lonesome’ guitar part.  Even when that part becomes loud, Randazzo’s voice booms through.  Alexander makes sure never to bury or “out-bass” Randazzo’s voice.  They make a good team, cohesive.

Randazzo maintains a nice long note at the end of the line ‘I’m dead and gone’ before the solo, but a slight melody/chord confusion, but veteran recovery.

Alexander rings out new chords to “I Need A Woman”.  I want to harken back to the second tune they performed, “Let Me Go”…  From ‘love killer, heart stealer’, to ‘I need a woman’.  Dude, make up your mind!!!  Previous to the song, he confessed to knowing well about one of the two topics; drinking and women.  Mr. Randazzo, take it from someone who’s coming up on 16 years of marriage, stick to drinking!!!  Alexander patiently strums while Randazzo takes a drink, delivers the above soliloquy and then prepares to deliver the goods.  They blossom through until just before (I presume) the bridge, where they toss up the knuckleball and stop!  After that, it’s pure groove as Randazzo proclaims his need for a woman.

Be careful what you wish for…

They break that down a change to quick chord chops that build into a thrilling dynamic, this is by far the most spirited track yet but it quickly comes to an end, to our chagrin.  At this point Randazzo now proclaims his love for the room, and he also proclaims he is having too much fun.

We are as well, Ed…

They fulfill copyright obligations by announcing that they have lifted “Didn’t It Rain” from Alexis P. Suter.  Not having been exposed Ms. Suter’s work, I am unfamiliar with the original.  For Randazzo’s version, he ad-libs the intro as Alexander lets Randazzo sing many phrases, many lines sans accompaniment.  This takes confidence.

I am not too comfortable with the references to rising water, having grown up and lost everything twice two floods caused by hurricanes Agnes in 1969 and Doria in 1972.

Otherwise, the notes on this song are brief as I was otherwise engaged in witnessing the performance of a serious singer songwriter.

Alexander handles guitar as Randazzo rattles the ancient windows of Tripp House with his humongous vocals. Photo by Lynn Vala

They close the night with a cover of Bill Wither’s “Grandma’s Hands”, which Randazzo explains is a love note to Wither’s grandmother.  Alexander backs off to let Randazzo’s voice punctuate the room.  Only Randazzo, with that booming voice could pull this off.  I know I couldn’t.  Alexander balances between the riff and the chords nicely.  They both feel these songs.  They bring it down and Randazzo offers a line about looking for Grnadma’s hands in heaven, then Randazzo ad-libs out and the show is concluded, for the most part.

I was told Randazzo would be returning for an encore with Bohren at the end of the night.  But the scheduling powers that be are not cooperative as I have over-booked myself and must return to editing photos, video and now, entering the text you have just read, and the photos you have just seen.

I was surprised at this local, amazing talent.  I have always been convinced there is talent to find in this area.  I also encourage said talent to contact me and let me know of their undertakings.  This review space is NOT just for established acts anymore…

Next, we go off-Broadway for the Doug Vincent/Sam Llanas show A Day For Grace.  No giving away the story (until we publish, of course) but it’s an emotional roller coaster!!!

Thanks and keep reading!!!

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  1. Dolores Says:

    Thank you for your support!


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