By Phillip Smith
Craig Chaquico, whose name is now more synonymous with jazz guitar and new age music, has decided to veer off his current path and venture down the blues highway for a while on his latest album, Fire Red Moon. The album is very guitar-centric, and pleasing to listen to. Mixing elements of his earlier rocking days with Jefferson Starship, with his new age styling, he’s producing some interesting music. The band is composed of lead singer Rolf Hartley, drummer Wade Olson, bass player Jim Reitzel and keyboardist Bill Slais.
Kenny Wayne Shephard fans may recognize the voice on the opening track, ‘Lie to Me’, featuring special guest singer Noah Hunt. His voice, deep and smooth, fits the song very well. ‘Bad Woman’, another of the seven original songs, is outstanding. Rolf Hartley’s vocals show a huge range on this one, and if a dude can channel Janis Joplin, he just may have done that for this song. Also enjoyed is title track ‘Fire Red Moon’, a blues instrumental to ‘zone out’ to and appreciate.
‘Born Under a Bad Sign’, a total re-imagineering of the original, seems more like a ‘Muzak’ or ‘Weather channel’ version than a blues song. It’s all instrumental, and sounds almost as if it was created specifically to be used for background music. That’s not the case on every song though, thank goodness. Chaquico raises the roof on Muddy Waters’ ‘Rollin’ and Tumblin’. It rocks as it should.
The album closes out with a bang, covering Robert Johnson’s ‘Crossroads’. Opening with a little taste of slide guitar on top of some rattlesnake and wind sound effects, it breaks out and runs like Willie Brown ‘til the end. This one is definitely my favorite cut. Chaquico throws his new age approaches to the side and plays this one specifically for the blues fans. Hartley shines on vocals as well. I hope Chaquico follows the blues path for a little while longer. It seems to fit him well.