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CD REVIEW -- Craig Chaquico

CRAIG CHAQUICO

Fire Red Moon

Blind Pig 

Craig Chaquico CD art

By Larry Schara

From the first few measures of Craig Chaquico’s new CD, Fire Red Moon on Blind Pig Records, you can instantly tell he is from the West Coast. Imagine if Steely Dan or the Eagles decided to make a blues CD and you’ll have a good idea of the overall sound and feel, and yes, this is a blues CD. All you staunch blues purists can move along, there is nothing for you here. But for those of you, like myself, who believe that a musical genre is like a living, breathing organism and must constantly evolve and grow to stay fresh and vibrant, then this is definitely a CD for you!

Craig Chaquico has a long and storied career as guitar player. As an early ‘70s teenager in the San Francisco area, he often appeared on stage and in the studio with the likes of Carlos Santana, The Grateful Dead, David Crosby and the Jefferson Airplane. When the Airplane reformed as the Jefferson Starship he was asked to join the band.  After a long run, including 20 gold and platinum albums, the band eventually broke up. Chaquico then moved on as a solo artist performing a jazz/new age style of music, releasing another 10 albums and a receiving a Grammy nomination. He’s obviously not a newcomer.  As for his progression into the blues, in a recent interview Craig Chaquico said, “If it wasn't for Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, Starship, my solo career, I wouldn't be able to do a blues record now, which is my latest record and the one I'm most proud of.  My musical career really is the same road but on different scenic turnouts--the rock 'n' roll and then the new age jazz and now the blues. That's where I am now on my musical journey.”

The CD opens strongly with Chaquico’s “Lie to Me” featuring the deep, husky vocals of Noah Hunt from the Kenny Wayne Shephard Band on vocals. The groove is infectious with the unmistakable West Coast feel and Chaquico’s jazz influence throughout.  His well-crafted original,“Devil’s Daughter,” follows with the remarkably high tenor of Rolf Hartley soaring on vocals. Again this song, arrangement and performance could easily show up on an Eagles album, and that’s not meant in a negative way at all.

Fire Red Moon features several instrumentals -- a pleasurable change from most blues releases.  Chaquico takes “Born Under a Bad Sign” to a uniquely different place as an instrumental that really shows off his guitar playing. I’m sure Albert King and Booker T Jones would approve!  Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ and Tumblin” and Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” get similar treatments with Rolf Hartley’s excellent vocals adding to the latter. One of my favorites is “Little Red Shoes” an excellent Chaquico-penned song with some fine guitar playing that is just an outright fun tune.  My other choice pick is “Fogtown Stroll,” an instrumental with that obvious West Coast feel, plus some tasty B-3 organ moving along behind Chaquico’s wonderful guitar.

This is not a typical blues record by any means, but as Chaquico’s musical journey has evolved over the years, he has brought all those influences and experiences with him, moving both his career forward and taking the blues to a new and interesting place!

Larry Schara is a 40 year veteran of the music industry as a musician, engineer, producer with 9 Grammy nominated credits, a couple of gold records and a fond remembrance of working with Ray Charles, B.B. King and Chuck Berry among others.

 

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