These boys call Macon, Georgia home and have been playing there together for just about three years. However, their individual careers began decades ago and span genres from country to southern rock to jazz. The musical maturity comes through loud and clear on Red Hot Blues, a CD of seven originals and four covers.
Front man Mike Ventimiglia (vocals, guitar) has a big voice and you can tell it's coming from a big man. Colonel Bruce Hampton came to mind immediately. The fragmented funk of Hampton's Aquarium Rescue Unit is recalled in a few spots too, especially on "Spreadin' the News."
Red Hot Blues offers a little bit of everything, from the swing of "Black Drawers" to the soulful R&B of "Treadin' Water." Big Mike & Co. even serve up some acoustic slide on the strangely amusing "Rats-n-Roaches". One of the brightest lights on this release is the alto sax work of Ed Smith. His tone and attack are impressive; sweet yet strong. You really have to appreciate the dual leads he does with guitarist Chris Crider and the jazzy solo in the Hank Williams tune, "You Win Again." This song is one of the nicest on the album. Other standouts are the opener, "Doggin' Me Around", which features some very smooth rhythm guitar and fills as well as the instrumental closer, "Slaw Dawg."
To bring it all home, Red Hot Blues is well-produced, with clean and perfectly balanced instrumentation. An all-around crowd pleaser!
This review is copyright © 1999 by Ann Wickstrom, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.