"Watermelon Patch" is Johnny Sansone's follow-up to his 1997 Bullseye debut CD, "Crescent City Moon" (BB9585). Fortunately for Sansone's growing number of fans, "Watermelon Patch" shows no sign of Sansone's letting up on his assault on blues, zydeco and roots rock n' roll. With thirteen new original compositions, Sansone offers listeners a range of music that will appeal to many different musical tastes.
Johnny Sansone's resume is a strong one. In the late 1980's, he worked with Ronnie Earl and The Broadcasters, backing an array of Chicago blues greats that included Jimmy Rogers, Hubert Sumlin and Pinetop Perkins. With his strong chromatic harp playing, Sansone reminded many people of the harp stylings of Big Walter, Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson II. Later, when Sansone left The Broadcasters and relocated to Louisiana, he quickly embraced the Louisiana sounds of cajun, zydeco and swamp blues; his performances now include his growing skills on the accordion in addition to the harmonica.
"Watermelon Patch" opens with the wildly upbeat zydeco sounds of "Think Of Me." His zydeco /cajun leanings appear throughout the CD on "Comin' For Sure," "The Bridge," "Lovelines," "Look At Me Now" and "Mon Fleur," a song that relates the story of a vampire girlfriend who's "flower only blooms at night." Listening to Sansone's treatment of these zydeco/cajun tunes makes it hard to believe that he was born in New Jersey and not in a Louisiana bayou town.
Some of the best songs on the CD are the instrumentals. On "Quagmire," "Stink Bait" and "Pig's Feet and Tail Meat," Sansone's chromatic harp work is dazzling; more than once bearing striking similarities to one of my favorite harp players, Mississippi Charlie Musselwhite.
If you like rocking blues or roots style rock n' roll, then the title track, "Watermelon Patch," and "Neutral Ground" will be particularly appealing. More blues is available on "Civilized City" which features some nice slide guitar by Rick Olivarez and keyboards by Joe Krown, in addition to Sansone's tough harp.
Despite what appears to be a "mix n' match" recording on the surface, the songs on the CD fit together surprisingly well. This is probably because of the well-crafted band and the fact that everyone of the original songs has Sansone's personal touch.
In a recent conversation with Sansone, he told me that he was starting to tour more on a national level to help give him more exposure to a national fan base. Increased national exposure, coupled with high quality recordings like "Watermelon Patch" will definitely go a long way to putting Sansone in the national spotlight.
The Rounder Group
This review is copyright © 1999 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.