Rich Delgrosso / John Del Toro Richardson

Time Slips on By

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There's no way to talk about Rich DelGrosso without acknowledging the fact that his weapon of choice, the mandolin, is not exactly the lead instrument most commonly deployed in blues these days. But that shouldn't be taken to mean that DelGrosso uses his axe in any remotely gimmicky kind of way, or that it's any less than fully integrated into the music on Time Slips on By. It's a tribute to his abilities as a musician and his sophistication and sensitivity as an artist that he can make the mandolin seem as natural in a contemporary blues context as the guitar. Speaking of the guitar, DelGrosso's got some company this time around in the form of singer/songwriter and guitarist John Del Toro Richardson, a fellow Texan bluesman who trades off with DelGrosso on songwriting and lead vocal duties throughout the album. Richardson, who has played with everyone from Pinetop Perkins to Otis Taylor, has a smoother vocal style than DelGrosso's gritty growl, but his axe bears plenty of bite. The pair trade solos as well, leaving each other plenty of elbow room; over the course of the record, DelGrosso turns out a string of uncommonly expressive solos, and he shows himself to be comfortable playing in everything from a classic slow-blues feel ("Hard to Live With") to a funky, groove-based style ("Shotgun Blues," inspired by the song of the same name by late blues-mandolin godfather Yank Rachell). Perhaps most striking is the fact that, for all of the rural, backporch imagery generally evoked by the mandolin's tone, Time Slips on By is an unfailingly urban-sounding record, with a tasty Texas horn section adding some crucial colors, and DelGrosso deftly adapting his instrument to that feel. Aside from the unnecessary hard sell of "Mandolin Man," Time Slips on By works pretty much from start to finish.

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