Tough and Tender was the first new studio for Piazza and the Mighty Flyers since 1992's Alphabet Blues. The kickoff track, "Power of the Blues," announces their triumphant return with a clarion call from Rod that "we've got the power of the blues." Piazza's harmonica is locked in sync with guitarist Rick "L.A. Holmes" Holmstrom's on the intro before Holmstrom whips off a slashing solo in the middle that recalls the phrasing of both T-Bone Walker and Pee Wee Crayton. Rod's solo on this opener is also textbook playing, full of taste, control and the deepest of tones. The title track is a new Piazza classic that illustrates the empathy between every player in the band with Honey Piazza's boogie-woogie piano soloing making an apt foil for Rod's chromatic harp work. "She Can't Say No" and "Sea of Fools" brings Jonny Viau's and Allen Ortiz's horn to the party for New Orleans style R&B and a blues rhumba. Piazza's harp is highlighted again on the instrumental "The Teaser." Other highlights include the loping West Coast swing of "Blues and Trouble," the jazzy instrumental "Under the Big Top," Honey's showcase on "Hang Ten Boogie" and the set-closing "Searching for a Fortune." This album clearly shows why Piazza and his band have been favorites on the blues circuit for quite some time and why that fan base shows no signs of getting smaller.
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AllMusic Review by Cub Koda