By Tom Baldino
Fish Eyed Blues has been an active member of the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation, both as volunteers and sponsored events since 2018. In the year following, they released their first disc, “Nothing Personal,” recorded at Retromedia Sound Studios in Red Bank. It was chosen that year by the JSJBF as the best self produced CD, representing us at the January 2020 IBC. Less than two months later, the world came to a crashing halt with the pandemic. With plenty of time on their hands, guitarist and leader Jeff Bavaro and Singer Paul Iannizzotto began working remotely on a new batch of songs, several of which they previewed at a Facebook live stream in April 2021 at our long running series, then being done in isolation and renamed “Reckless Streamy Nights.” Work continued and in September of that year, recording began with Adam Vaccarelli at Retromedia again at the helm. In December, the completed project was given to Tim Pannella for mastering. Early this year the band signed on with Jersey Shore Records after meeting CEO Denis Quilligan and hearing of his history of working in Nashville handling radio promotion for many artists.
I received an advance copy of the new CD titled “It’s Not You… It’s Me” and from the artwork to the presentation to the songs, the band has come up with a winner! The opening track, “When You Goin’ Home” is a hard driving rocker that is anchored by the excellent rhythm section of Kevin Krause on drums and Rich Solomon on bass. They switch gears with the heavy blues of “Sweet Sugar Mama” featuring Jeff’s distorted guitar and Paul’s equally rough vocals which fit the song well. “Cigarettes” leads off with a clip from “The Honeymooners” followed by a Stonesy riff that catches your ear and won’t let go.
“Cold Inside” is a minor key blues shuffle which features some outstanding fret work by Jeff. The next tune “Undone” has a catchy opening riff with the band joining in over Paul’s vocals leading to a great bridge and again highlighted by Jeff’s guitar which defines the band’s signature sound.“Mad as a Hatter” has Kevin’s opening high-hat beat which leads into a song that really swings with the drums punctuating the song a well as keeping that beat. “Devils Angel” is Black Sabbath meets Alice in Chains in a departure that actually fits in with the taste of many styles adopted by the band for this disc. Keeping with that theme, “Wasted Days” could have come from the country rock band Pure Prairie League. The jangling acoustic guitar frames Paul’s vocals perfectly while maintaining what the band refers to as “blues soul.” “Coming and Goin’” opens with a familiar blues riff but is given the band’s unique treatment which is very pleasing to this listener. “Goodbye” is an up-tempo rocker in the Chuck Berry style seen through the Fish Eyed lens. If this doesn’t get you moving a check of the pulse is in order. “Down The River” is a slow but funky blues on which the singer laments that age old question, why his girl sold him down the river. Jeff adds some fine plaintive guitar soloing to complement Paul’s stinging vocals. “Whole Lotta Nothing” opens with Kevin’s Bo Diddley beat, then Jeff chiming in with heavy distortion on a riff that sounds like the Monkee’s “Last Train to Clarksville” with the mantra whole lot of nothing going on, and it all works! The penultimate song “Good Time Blues” is an acoustic number with an opening loop which includes some items not usually associated with the blues or any other musical form. I’m not going to give you the total makeup but I will say that sandpaper is in the mix. With Jeff’s slide and Kevin’s marching beat, the rhythm section really makes this one sound like it was being played on a rundown porch front in the deep south. The last tune “One Stop Over the Line” has Paul singing the opening lyrics in unison with Jeff’s guitar over a syncopated beat laid down by Kevin and Rich and it soars from there. Despite the wide musical terrain that is covered on this disc, Fish Eyed Blues has pulled it off and their musical journey is a rewarding one for us listeners.
To hear the disc performed live and get a copy for yourself, join the JSJBF and the band at member venue, the Chubby Pickle, on Saturday April 30th at 6:30pm for the CD Release Party. All proceeds that evening will benefit the Foundation. Reservations are recommended as it will probably be a full house.