|Singer/songwriter guitarist and producer Bobby Gentilo has spent years digging deep into Mississippi Delta and Hill Country Blues as a member The Cornlickers, the backing band for the late Big Jack Johnson. For the past several years, The Cornlickers has been the official house band for the world-famous juke joint, Red’s Lounge, in Clarksdale, MS. Gentilo has also collaborated with South American artist Carlos Elliot to fuse traditional Colombian music with American roots and blues producing music and touring the world.
Gentilo now releases his debut album that ambitiously mixes Mississippi blues and roots with Go-Go, the funk, soul, and blues inspired music from his hometown of Washington D.C. The surprising result is a fresh collection of dance-infected tracks featuring his sparkling tenor, skillful musical passages and, above all else, great grooves. The ten original tracks on “Gentilo,” were recorded to tape at his home base, Right Coast Recording in central Pennsylvania, with members of both his trio and full band showing off his skills as a songwriter and producer.
The infectious opener, ‘Disease,’ blends electronic beats with gritty guitar work, subtle blues harmonica, and poppy vocals. The driving ‘Peace Train’ has the distinct Hill Country Possum Records trance blues riff layered over a bed of East Coast discotheque rhythm and greasy B3 from Benjie Porecki. The breezy love song ‘Tell Me,’ has Jersey Shore swing with just a touch of “under the boardwalk” grit. On the spirited first single and video from the album ‘Troublin’,’ released in May of 2021, you can hear the boots scuffing on a sawdust covered dance floor on the raucous boogie as Gentilo says “Ain’t no party like a juke joint party.” Drummer Jason Hoffheins delivers a classic D.C. Go-Go beat on the dynamic head-bopping instrumental ‘Ghost,’ with Logan Kurtek slipping in hot baritone sax jabs alongside Gentilo’s atmospheric guitar. The sugary sweet neo-soul ballad ‘The Greatest,’ takes us back to the boy band heyday of the 90’s with all the schmaltz but more sincerity.
The landscape shifts up the delta during the Memphis Blues ‘The Real You,’ and its swinging horn driven style, then does a solid u-turn back down highway 61 for the Delta Blues devotional ‘Treat Me So Mean,’ with Gentilo showing off the skills he learned under the tutelage of Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Terry “Harmonica” Bean, and T-Model Ford. He and Tony Ryder work out a grunge blues riff on the space fuzz instrumental ‘Tire Fire,’ capitalizing on the telepathy they developed in the years they spent together in The Cornlickers. In classic Go-Go music style, the album’s finale ‘Higher,’ employs three drummers who weave together the complex street beat rhythms under hypnotic Hill Country Blues guitars and a chanting chorus, creating a modern sonic stew hybrid.
This upbeat release from Bobby Gentilo rightly reminds us that the spirit of Mississippi is everywhere and by ignoring musical boundaries we can keep the blues alive and bring the world closer together.
Rick J Bowen
Take a walk through the world-famous Cat Head store in Clarksdale, MS and you will find more than a dozen albums with Bobby Gentilo’s name credited. Gentilo is an award-winning international record producer and musician, who has worked and performed with many of Mississippi’s most acclaimed blues artists over the last 15 years. He is also a member of The Cornlickers, the backing band for the late Big Jack Johnson. For the last several years, The Cornlickers has been the official house band for the world-famous juke joint, Red’s Lounge, located in the heart of Clarksdale. It’s here where Gentilo performed with and learned from Delta icons like Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Terry “Harmonica” Bean, T-Model Ford, “Cadillac” John Nolden, Robert Bilbo Walker, R.L. Boyce, and countless others. His recent achievement is his work on R.L. Boyce’s live album, “Boogie with R.L. Boyce,” nominated for Best Traditional Blues Album in this year’s Blues Music Awards.
Born and raised in Washington D.C., Gentilo was infected by Go-Go, a blend of funk, soul, and blues music unique to the region. “There were few boundaries. The color of your skin didn’t dictate what music you could or couldn’t play,” he explains. “All that matters is – can you groove?” Go-Go and Mississippi Blues both inspire couples to dance close and sweaty. It’s party music. The unique combination of these two genres became the foundation to Gentilo’s style.