EDITOR’S NOTE: In December, we like to take a look back at albums we didn’t get around to reviewing earlier in the year. Lemonade was released in July.
Bobby Messano may not be the household name he should be, but among blues and rock fans he holds a special place. In 2015 his album Love & Money was nominated for a Blues Blast Award for Best Rock-Blues Album. His 2017 follow-up, Bad Movie, debuted at No.1 on B.B. King’s Bluesville channel on Sirius XM and featured songs co-written with Jon Tiven and Larry Weiss, as well as Brian May and Tiven’s “Water under the Bridge.” Now, on Lemonade, Messano is joined by Bob Malone on keys, Carl Dufrene Jr. on bass, Doug Belote on drums, and Roddy Romero on squeezebox to deliver a scorching and funky set of tunes that weave blues, rock, soul, and jazz into a potent musical stew.
The album kicks off with the propulsive “The Bad Guys,” fueled by Belote’s muscular drumming and Messano’s stinging leads; it’s a straight-ahead rocker that shades into sonic psychedelic tones in the bridge, sort of like Bachman-Turner-Overdrive-meets-Johnny-Winter. The funked-up “Heal Me” slides in rollicking fashion across the dance floor, while the driving instrumental “Junk Jam” floats along the wild musical rapids of Malone’s soaring B3 and Messano’s screaming lead guitar runs. “Junk Jam” resembles those soul rock songs from Stax in the late ’60s. The somber minor-chord piano ballad “A Thursday in June” is Messano’s haunting, response to the deep hurt and suffering that sexual harassers inflict on women. The album closes with Messano’s layered acoustic version of Stephen Stills’ “Find the Cost of Freedom.”
Lemonade finds Messano playing and writing at the top of his game. There’s enough musical variety here to satisfy his longtime fans and to gain him a whole set of new ones: Lemonade offers a good place to jump into the stream of Bobby Messano’s music.