Gibson Online, Review: Blues Town

Gibson Online, December 1996

Review: Blues Town
by Brett Ratner

You may or may not know who Rick Vito is, but chances are you've heard his bluesy guitar sounds -- ranging from electric slide to acoustic DOBRO -- enhancing the music of some of the most popular artists of the last decade.

Along with a five-year stint with Fleetwood Mac in the late '80s, Vito has recorded or performed with Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Roy Orbison, John Prine and Bob Seger. Perhaps his most recognizable work is that searing slide solo in "Like A Rock," a huge hit for Seger and later a Chevy Truck commercial.

Vito affords himself a chance to stretch out his vocal, songwriting and guitar abilities on Blues Town, his first solo release since his 1992 debut on Atlantic Records, King Of Hearts. The album features such studio heavyweights as Resse Wynans (formerly of Stevie Ray's Double Trouble) and Glen Worf.

Blues Town shoots straight down the middle of the road, delivering classic blues, rock and R&B-flavored tunes. Vito isn't really trying to break new ground, just deliver a soulful performance.

A soulful performance Vito does deliver on 12 tracks that run the gamut from upbeat rockers ("Trouble In Trying Times") to twang-filled honky tonk tunage ("Blues Town") to the slow blues grind ("Living Without You"), to that acoustic-Dobro-flavored blues thang ("World On Fire").

Vito has a unique guitar approach which combines standard guitar techniques with slide. In other words, he can seamlessly alternate between the slide and fretted notes using the remaining fingers on his left hand. This enables him to take on two distinct personalities, switching between nimble picking and crying, sustained notes in mid-phrase or mid-solo--like a Jekyll and Hyde on guitar.

Vito has a smooth, refined and melodic singing voice, almost like a white Robert Cray. For this reviewer's taste, a "25 years of Marlboros and whiskey" type vox would add that crucial element of pain to complement the stellar guitar work. But overall, Blues Town is first rate.

[Note: Blues Town was never released-- Rick Vito released Pink & Black in August, 1998 which contains some of these songs.]

Thanks to Ali for posting this to the Ledge and to Anusha for formatting and sending it to us.