Little Mike and The Tornadoes - All The Right Moves

Unpretentious, meat-and-potatoes blues done up right
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Every city has at least a couple of restaurants that border on institutions - unpretentious joints that, year after year, continue to serve up equally unpretentious and thoroughly satisfying fare. If you make really, really good burgers, or pizza, or bagels, you might tweak the recipe now and again, but in the end you rely on the time-tested basics that work so well.

Little Mike and The Tornadoes' music is a bit like that - predominantly familiar shuffles and twelve bar grinders, meat-and-potatoes stuff free of fancy frills or exotic embellishments, but always thoroughly engaging thanks to polished professionalism and undiminished enthusiasm.

All The Right Moves finds vocalist and harmonicist Little Mike (Markowitz) reunited with the original Tornadoes lineup, formed in New York in the early eighties - guitarist Tony O (Melio), bassist Brad Vickers, and drummer Rob Piazza, augmented by Jim McKaba on keys. As a unit, they lay down solid, no-nonsense grooves with easy assurance, with equally lean and economical solos from guitar and piano.

The tunes are all band originals, with Melio and Vickers contributing one each and the rest courtesy of Markowitz. There are no real surprises, either musically or lyrically - the forms are pretty standard, and subject matter includes woman, money, booze, along with associated troubles and tribulations thereof. Titles like "I Got Drink Last Night," "A Little On The Side," Won't Be Your Fool," and "The Blues Is Killing Me" tell the story, while instrumental "Sam's Stomp" gives Markowitz a chance to strut his harmonica stuff.

But the blues endures because, familiar or not, when it's done right, with passion and energy, when it's delivered with an edge, a hint of danger and menace, and the band is locked in - it's among the most satisfying fare to be found. Markowitz and friends have the recipe down pat - they know it's about the groove, the sound, not the notes, and they serve it up raw and raucously real (it's pretty obvious these are one-take sessions).

There may be stronger singers out there, and players who can squeeze more notes in, but ultimately it's the chemistry and conviction that count, and with All The Right Moves, Little Mike and The Tornadoes once again deliver the goods.