“Blue Largo” was established in 1999 after Alicia Aragon and Eric Lieberman began to perform together. It took nearly twenty years for their musical relationship to connect while Eric played guitar and performed in the legendary “King Biscuit Blues Band,” “The Rhumboogies” and “Juke Stompers.” Alicia was shy and although she enjoyed singing she waitressed until she finally committed to the band. They played covers of blues from the 1940s and 1950’s by artists like Billie Holiday and T Bone Walker. After recording a couple of albums in 2006 Eric developed “a neurological condition known as Focal Dystonia.” Because of the disorder, his right hand was severely impaired which affected his guitar playing. It forced him to practice playing his guitar for five hours a day for the past fifteen years to maintain the neurological pathways necessary to perform. After not recording for 13 years, Eric and “Blue Largo” entered the studio again in 2015 resulting in Sing Your Own Song followed by 2018’s Before the Devil Steals Your Soul.
In 2022, “Blue Largo released its fifth studio album Got to Believe. The album’s production was initially inspired by Stevie Van Zandt’s 2021 memoir, “Unrequited Infatuations.” “Disciple of Soul” has a reggae sound and is just one out of eleven cut’s and is a tribute to Van Zandt, who was an inspiration to Lieberman for over fifty years. There are a total of ten original compositions and one cover originally soulfully recorded by Nina Simone in 1964 and then as a blues rocker by the “Animals” in 1965. Got to Believe is a powerful album with compositions that cover a variety of styles ranging from soulful R&B to hard rocking blues. The overall message of the release is positive expressing “love, hope and unity.”
Beside Alicia (vocals) and Eric (guitar) the rest of the band is currently comprised of Marcus Bashore (drums), Dave Castel De Oro and Eddie Croft (sax), Taryn “T-Bird” Donath (piano) and Mike “Sandlewood” Jones (Fender bass). All the songs on the album except for the single cover were written by Eric Lieberman and “Blue Largo” beginning with “A World Without Soul.” It has a big band sound with Aragon belting it out to a driving rhythm accentuated by piano licks as Taryn takes the lead. “Got To Believe” is the personal testimony of Eric’s struggle with Focal Dystonia which he rebuts with his guitar licks. The song’s melody is reminiscent of the doo wop period in the style and presentation. “Soul Meeting” is a lovesong and once again Alicia soars as De Oro and Croft melodically accompany her on sax. Gospel sounding background singing leads into a guitar solo by Eric and back again as Taryn switches to organ. “What We Gotta Do” is a rocking out anthem that tells the story of what’s behind the motivation of professional musicians doing what they do. Donath’s keyboards and then Leiberman’s guitar embellished Alicia’s vocals with a honky tonk rhythm accompanied by a repeating sax riff. Bashore’s drums and Sandlewood’s bass held the band together with their foundational rhythm section on “Disciple of Soul.” Keyboards were dominant on “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood as Aragon belted out a wailing blues rendition.
The title for “Soldier in the Army Of the Lord” is pure gospel borrowing from Rev. James Cleveland for the moniker. Leiberman’s version was written in support of the Ukrainian people as a protest against tyranny and oppression. “Ronnie” is a rollicking boogie woogie piano driven number that tells the story of how Taryn Donath was taken in and groomed by established San Diego musician Ronnie Lane in the years prior to passing away in 2018. “Gospel Music” is a statement about the power of music to influence even if one doesn’t necessarily agree with the theology that inspired it. “Rear View Mirror” is a melodic soul searching song that is a reflection of forty years of life that Alicia sings in a haunting voice. “Santa Fe Bound” has a Country sound because of the inclusion of Dave Berzansky’s pedal steel guitar. The song is a eulogy for an old friend named Scott Corey that passed away in 2019.
Got to Believe is an enjoyable listen especially with the variety in the emotionally driven selections.
The Review: 8/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
– Disciple of Soul
– Soldier in the Army of Love
– Soul Meeting
– Santa Fe Bound
The Big Hit
– Soldier in the Army of Love