Gregg Karukas

You'll Know It's Me

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The least enviable aspect of being a successful artist in this genre is no doubt trying to meet three sets of expectations. First, there's the ongoing desire to evolve disc to disc and challenge oneself creatively. Then, there's heeding the criticism of purists and cynics who may hold a kernel of truth when they say your music's a little lightweight. And finally, the matter of not straying too far from everything that's proved magical and successful in the past, lest you alienate your precious supporters. How to strike a balance between all three? Ask Gregg Karukas, whose melodic touch and diverse sense of style have bound him from first generation Rippingtons circa 1987 to one of this decade's most popular performers. It may seem presumptuous to call a new project You'll Know It's Me, but when you've achieved a recognizable tone among a sea of bland mundanity, why not go out and toot your own horn? A handful of the 11 pieces on You'll Know It's Me run the usual Karukas gamut -- lighthearted romps like the title cut and the breezy Rio thing on "Avalon" come to mind -- but there's a decidedly funkier, bluesy, even gospel edge creeping into the cooler fare. The most striking additions are real live horns, which spruce up the fidgety notions of "Back on the Boardwalk" and the Latin-splashed "Barracuda Bob" just as easily as they do the tender "Two Hearts Make One," and Karukas' use of Fender Rhodes to complement his usual mix of piano and synthesizer. Dino Soldo's chromatic harmonica riffs wind through the bluesy strain as well. And for those looking for old Karukas standbys, Boney James' soulful sax and Ricardo Silveria's lean acoustic guitar are used in just the right spots.

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