By Tom Baldino
Billy Hector and his long time partner in life and music, Suzan Lastovica, have been making up for lost time since the pandemic ended. As if releasing the self-penned and highly acclaimed “Rock Night in New Jersey” CD last year, along with a gig schedule that would wear out someone half his age weren’t enough, he has just released a new CD, “Now and Then,” with a mix of covers and original music. I last saw Billy at the Les Paul Experience at Monmouth University a few months ago where he was one of a group of the most notable New Jersey guitar slingers on stage who paid homage to the father of the electric guitar that night.
Billy and Suzan again have hooked up with Steve Jankowski at Jankland Studio as well as Lakehouse Studio to give us eleven tracks, the last three of which are originals. It kicks off with Taj Mahal’s “Nobody Gonna Steal My Jelly Roll,” a mid tempo swinger that features Billy’s expressive guitar work and David Nunes fine B3. From there, the Boss’ tune “Savin’ Up,” is highlighted by Suzan’s vocals which fit beautifully into the groove provided. They then reach back for Willie Dixon’s “You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover,” originally made famous by Bo Diddley. It’s done Rockabilly style (no pun intended), with Hector soloing all over the guitar with some great leads. Suzan again takes the mic on Chuck Berry’s “It’s My own Business,” with ample help from the band, who change from track to track, but if you check the liner notes, you will recognize most, if not all the players, as some of the best on the Jersey Shore. His regular bassist, Tim Tindall, does show up on most tracks. “Alberta” is a song that was sung by Lead Belly in the 1940’s. Here on this lilting ballad, Billy’s singing and playing give this tune a contemporary feel while staying firmly rooted in the blues. Suzan takes a swing at Leon Russell’s “I’d Rather Be Blind” and with the help of Billy’s chugging rhythm guitar and sharp leads, she knocks it out of the park. The Motown gem “(I’m A) Roadrunner” was made famous by Jr. Walker and his sax, but here is taken in a totally different direction with Suzan on vocals and Billy’s stellar fret work sans horn with pleasing results. “Sugar Coated Love” is given that Texas blues feel with Billy handling the vocals and some smoking guitar leads. “Change Your Mind,” an original by the couple, adds the “Midnight Horns” of Steve Jankowski on trumpet and Tommy LaBella on sax. This slow blues simmers under Suzan’s vocals, until Billy unleashes some ferocious guitar to drive it home. Billy takes the credit for “Tell Me Baby,” where he asks the age old question, “When you gonna treat your Daddy right”? This song treats the listener right with its driving beat and great guitar. The last song, another original by Billy, is titled “Justice Is a Slow Train”. It has that trademark slide he employs which is as good as anyone in the business, and is in the vein of his best self- penned songs.
Overall, this is another strong outing by one of the best and most original players on the Jersey Shore. Letting Suzan handle half the vocals only makes it better and really cements this partnership. They are just as good, no, actually better now as they were then.