Toronzo Cannon – “The Chicago Way” Marks New Beginning
Since his inspirational breakout performance at last summer’s Chicago Blues Festival, Toronzo Cannon has been a juggernaut. There is no obstacle that can, or will keep him from his mission: To bring the blues to the people, and keep the blues alive.
Cannon’s new album on Alligator Records, The Chicago Way, is a gripping, no-holds-barred look at life in the sometimes unforgiving city of Chicago, and life in general for a forty-something year old man trying to make his way, building a life for himself, and his family.
Cannon’s previous album, on the Delmark label, John The Conquer Root, earned him a nomination for Blues Music Award for best blues/rock album. This was an edgy, at times blistering, rock tinged blues album that took no prisoners. Although this music was bold and adventurous, it still admirably tipped the hat to blues traditions.
The Chicago Way, contains 11 tracks with a running time of 52 minutes. This album is tight, focused, and more refined than it’s Delmark predecessor, John The Conqueror. Bruce Iglauer, president of Alligator Records deserves a good deal of credit for the production values of this music, which are excellent. Iglauer worked with Cannon, offering alternate perspectives, asking questions, but always leaving the final determinations to Cannon. Sometimes, it’s a good thing to have another point of view.
There are several tracks here that are a cut above. “The Pain Around Me,” is an accurate presentation of life in the hood; the dismay, disgust, anger, disappointment, and wonder not only at how this has happened, but how did it happen here? “Bad Contract,” is a look at divorce and features winning bass and guitar lines, along with a great story. “Walk It Off” is the deepest blues cut here, and it’s a journey down the rabbit hole: deep, deep, and blue.
There are more impressive performances including “Fine Seasoned Woman,” which had us back in the ’50s with it’s perfect lines and vocals. The rhythm section nails it on “Jealous Love,” and this cut reminded us of those great Staples Singers records with their absolutely killer grooves. “Chickens Comin’ Home To Roost” is a ferocious club cut with serious texture thanks to the band weaving in and out of one another’s parts.
In a lot of ways, The Chicago Way is Cannon’s rebirth. This album represents a cosmic shift in his thinking, his writing, and his playing. He speaks more fluently now and his words are sparse, yet concise, and effective. Yes, he can scream with his guitar, but now he can move us with as much or more immediacy when his guitar whispers. For all his advancement and improvement, Cannon has not lost one iota of emotional content; if anything, he has gained immensely.
Pick up the The Chicago Way, and join Toronzo Cannon as he begins this next stage of the journey into the unexplored sonic wilderness.