6BN-Supersonic Blues

11 April 2016
Written by David McCabe

Supersonic Blues Machine

For the second in my series, I am doing something I did not expect to do, and that is write about something that is relatively new, not just to me, but to most folks. Since I consider myself a latecomer to the Blues scene, what I call my ‘discoveries’, and what would normally occupy this space, will be well known to a lot of folks.
At the end of February 2016, while skimming through all my usual sources of announcements of new releases from Blues artists, I noticed a debut album from an American band. The album is called “West of Flushing South of Frisco”, and it is from a band called Supersonic Blues Machine. To be honest, the name is not one of my favorites, but what I read next really caught my attention. The blurb about the album said “with special guests Billy F. Gibbons, Walter Trout, Warren Haynes, Robben Ford, Eric Gales and Chris Duarte”.

Wow, what kind of talent and reputation do you have to have to be able to form a band, and get guitar players of that caliber to guest on your
 first album? I would say it would have to be pretty damn good, so I started to research this band.
The band is made up of three members:
Fabrizio Grossi – Bass, Baritone Guitar, Hammond, Percussions,Vocals
Lance Lopez – Swamp and Lead Guitars, Vocals
Kenny Aronoff – Drums, Percussions

In 2012, Texan guitarist-singer-songwriter Lance Lopez made a visit to Los Angeles to record a new album and producer Fabrizio Grossi suggested they hook up and work on some ideas. A day and a half later, after working in the studio, they had 3 songs ready. As Fabrizio said, “Lance is incredible, I can show him any melody line I want, but that guy ends up putting his bluesy mark on anything, he was born with the blues. It’s so natural for him.”

Fabrizio Grossi

Fabrizio Grossi is a USA-naturalized Italian, known as a bass player, producer and sound expert with a vast array of talents and a long list of collaborations.
After obtaining a diploma in International Music Business Trades in Milan, Fabrizio moved to the US in 1991 to start a career as a US representative, developer and A&R associate for several European and Latin American record and entertainment companies. His duties have ranged from projects coordinator/executive producer (eg. Laura Pausini, Warner Italy, 22 million albums sold worldwide), to A&R scout and producer (Tribe after Tribe, Glenn
Hughes, George Clinton & P-Funk, Ice T) and licenses and strategies advisor (Buddha Bar, Toto, Heart).
At the same time, Fabrizio developed a career as bass player, playing alongside such folks as Steve Vai, Neal Schon, Steve Lukather, Michael Landau, Frank Gambale, Ritchie Kotzen, Slash, Eric Gales, Tracii Guns, Gilby Clarke , Tina Arena, Nina Hagen, George Clinton, Ice T and others.
Obviously a man that likes to do different things and keep busy, he is also an award-winning producer/engineer/remixer for a wide range of rock, pop and hiphop artists such as Glenn Hughes, Dave Navarro, Killah Priest & Wu-Tang, Ice T, George Clinton & P-Funk, Body Count, Starship, House of Lords, Steve Lukather, POD, Starbreaker and many others. Fabrizo has also written and produced music for many TV shows and feature movies, including WWF
Women of Wrestling and "Shaft", for which he cut tracks with Chad Smith and John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Lance Lopez

Lance Lopez was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and at the age of 12 his family moved to Dallas, where, with the exception of a couple of short stints back in Louisiana and Southern Florida, the guitarist has called home ever since.
A professional musician since the age of 14 when he began playing local bars in and around New Orleans, at 17 he was hired by soul great Johnnie Taylor, with whom he toured for six months. By 18 he was hired as the band leader of blues legend Lucky Peterson’s band, spending three years touring throughout the world.
It was while with Peterson in Europe that Lance became friends with drummer Buddy Miles, subsequently becoming the guitarist for The Buddy Miles Express for a brief time. The former Band Of Gypsys legend would go on to co producing Lance’s debut album ‘First Things First’, along with Grammy winning producer Jay Newland (Norah Jones) which was released independently in 1998.

In 2003 Lance wrote, recorded and produced Wall Of Soul along with fellow guitarist and long-time friend Eric Gales. "Soul" was a pure 
exhibition of Lance's power trio skills and guitar pyrotechnics reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix, Robin Trower, and SRV. It also shows the more original Epic-Rock aspect of Lance's songwriting.
In early 2005, Lance reunited with Buddy Miles to form a side project unofficially dubbed Band Of Trouble, with Ex-Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Arc Angel bassist Tommy Shannon. They shared the stage on concerts with artist such as Rick Derringer, Joe Bonamassa, Chris Duarte, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
The Summer of 2005 saw Lance hammer out the follow up to Wall of Soul. Simplify Your Vision, his second release on the Upstate-New York based rooveyard Records. In this powerful, yet raw, production, Lance called upon some of the heaviest session musicians of Funk, Jazz and R&B in Dallas/Fort Worth and put them into a Power Trio setting. A highlight of "Vision" is the remake of the Robert Johnson Delta-Blues classic "Stones In My Passway" in which he and his sidemen go on an 8 minute Blues/Funk marathon guitar workout.

Kenny Aronoff

Kenny Aronoff is one of the world’s most influential and in-demand drummers. The list of artists he’s worked with reads like a who’s who of the music industry, and includes John Mellencamp, The Rolling Stones, The Smashing Pumpkins, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Sting, Lady Ga Ga, Bruno Mars, Pharell Williams, Lenny Kravitz, Kid Rock, Bob Seger, Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Chickenfoot, Jon Bon Jovi, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Steven Tyler, Slash, Eric Clapton, Dave Grohl, Jack White, Garth Brooks, Don Henley, Glenn Frey, James Taylor, Chris Cornel, Rob Thomas, Alanis Morissette, Melissa Etheridge, Billy Gibbons, Gregg Allman, Keith Urban, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Sheryl Crow, Puddle of Mudd, Avril Lavigne, Michelle Branch, Joe Cocker, B. B. King, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Beyonce, Mick Jagger, Ray Charles, Alice Cooper, Tony Iommi, Meat Loaf, Bonnie Raitt, Ricky Martin, Santana, Crosby Stills and Nash, Celine Dion, Vince Gill, Gladys Knight, Aaron Neville, Trisha Yearwood, Patti LaBelle, The BoDeans, George Jones, Brad Paisley, The Buddy Rich Big Band and many others. With a style of playing that combines power and finesse, Kenny was named the #1 Pop/Rock Drummer and the #1 Studio Drummer for five consecutive years by the readers of Modern Drummer Magazine, and in addition has played on over 30 Grammy-nominated recordings.

Growing up in Massachusetts, and a self-taught drummer, Kenny played in local bands through junior and high school. At 16, he decided to focus
on classical music and began to study seriously with members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, including world-renowned timpanist Vic Firth. He went on to study at the University of Massachusetts and at Indiana University, where, among other honors, he was awarded the school’s prestigious Performer’s Certificate. During summer breaks he played in the symphony orchestras at the Aspen Music Festival (run by The Juilliard School Of Music) and the Tanglewood Music Festival (run by the Boston Symphony Orchestra).
After graduating from Indiana University in 1976, Kenny was offered timpani positions in several symphony orchestras, but instead decided to head to the east coast, where he studied drum set in Boston and New York. In 1980 he joined the John Mellencamp band, recording 10 albums and touring with him over a 17-year period. Kenny’s innovative style and solid backbeat became the driving force behind Mellencamp’s long run of definitive hit records in the ’80s and ’90s, a list that includes American Fool, Scarecrow, Uh Huh, The Lonesome Jubilee, Whenever We Wanted, Dance Naked, Big Daddy, Human Wheels, Mr. Happy Go Lucky and others.
From 1993 to 1997, Kenny was Associate Professor of Percussion at Indiana University. The Aronoff Percussion Scholarship is awarded annually to a percussion student enrolled at IU.

West of Flushing South of Frisco

13 tracks on the album, totaling 56 minutes of music.
Almost all songs feature Francis Bentez and Andrea Grossi on background vocals. As well, Jimmy “Jimmy Z” Zavala joins on the harmonica, and Garret Hollbrock on Lap Steel for ‘Miracle Man’ and ‘Bone Bucket Blues’. Sam Lusiting plays Hammond on 5 of the tracks, and Phil Parlapiano plays Hammond on the last track. Serge Simac also contributes some guitar work, and writing, to a few songs.
Every song except one cover of a Bobby Blue Bland song and one original by Joey Skyes and Marcia Ramirez, was written by Fabrizio Grossi, with co-writing credits to most guests on each of their songs.
The album kicks things off rather nicely with the rather pleasing hints of Texan blues and Lance’s wonderful gravely vocals brought together in a really catchy number, called ‘Miracle Man’. Starts slow, and builds up, with a great bass line. Great first tune for the album.
‘I Ain’t Fallin Again’ is an almost 70's rock sounding tune, that digs deep into the personal life of Fabrizio Grossi. The drumming provided by Aronoff cadences the inner feelings unraveled by the lyrics and constitutes one of the many highlights of the record.
‘Running Whiskey’ is the first song to feature one of the guest guitarists, Billy F. Gibbons. The song is written by Fabrizio, Billy, and the great bass player we see often with Jeff Beck, Tal Wilkenfield. Sounds like Billy Gibbons playing with a different, but just as good, band as usual. Of course, being a ZZ Top fan since the early 70’s means that this is not a bad thing for me.
‘Remedy’ features Warren Haynes, and brings the sound of the album to the southern blues/rock sound we all know and love so well. And of course, Warren adding his voice is not going to hurt either. A beautifully chilled song which the more you listen to the more you realize how many layers there are.
With the title ‘Bone Bucket Blues‘, it’s pretty obvious what’s about to hit your lungs. Now this is Texan blues pure & simple. I defy your foot not to tap along to this one. Another favorite.
‘Let It Be’ slows the tempo down, producing a smooth, mellow, laid back track. The song has a sway and infectious manner that makes easy pickings of ears.
‘That’s My Way’ is the Chris Duarte featured song, a soulful track with a gospel style choir backing which adds hints of funk in the main body of the song. A real melting pot of styles which works extremely well.
‘Ain’t No Love (in the heart of the city)’ is the cover of a Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland song, (also covered by Whitesnake a few years ago) written by Michael Price and Dan Walsh. What these guys have done here with their version is bring it back to its roots, back to the soul track it first was.
‘Nightmares And Dreams’ features another Texas guitar player, Eric Gales. Eric brings his unforgettable style with also hints of the late, great Jeff Healey to the mix. And what a mix it is turning into.
‘Can’t Take It No More’ brings Walter Trout up to play and sing a laid back, richly infused number that is one of my favorites. Walter and Lance sing and play guitar beautifully together on this.
'Whiskey Time’ brings back Billy to play an extended ending to ‘Running Whiskey’. A very heavy, very Billy Gibbons ending. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
‘Let’s Call It A Day’ is written by Joey Skyes and Marcia Ramirez, and features Robben Ford on guitar and Joey Sykes plays rhythm guitar. A ballad-esque number, it has some wonderful guitar playing, a song to really make you listen carefully to every note plucked.
‘Watchagonnado’, the last song, adds Phil Parlapiano on the Hammond, and with that Hammond organ and blues rock vibe I found myself nodding along, being completely drawn into a track I didn’t want to end.


So to sum up, has it lived up to my expectations? Absolutely and more so. When rating the songs for eligibility to be copied into my playlists that are randomly generated from 5 star songs in my collection, all 13 songs on the album got 5 stars. Lance does a superb job singing on all of the tunes, and all the different styles of the guest guitarists contribute to making the album not sound like a debut album at all. Because of all those styles, no two songs sound the same.
 In the songs that have the guest guitarists, the interplay between Lance and the guest is genuinely interesting to listen to. So much so, I have yet to seriously listen to much of the lyrics.
While listening to this album, there were times when certain songs sounded like they could have come from some of my favorite Blues bands. For example, Miracle Man sounds like it could have been a Monkeyjunk tune, especially when the harp is wailing. And Remedy made me think of Blackburn, not because of the content of the lyrics, but because of the melody, vocals, and the way it was arranged. Then there is Let It Be making me think of Robert Cray’s smooth sound. Again, this helps keep it fresh from song to song, and helps ensure this is not a boring “every song sounds the same” album.
Having said all of this now, my only fear is that these guys have set the bar extremely high for any follow ups. Let us hope not, and that they can surpass it, if they choose to continue the project.
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