Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Album Review: Billy Iuso - 52 Hz

Billy Iuso
52 Hz
***and1/2 out of *****

During the pandemic, New Orleans based singer/songwriter/guitarist Billy Iuso laid down the tracks that would become 52 Hz. Working with local musicians and friends from his home studio the record came together as a mix of easy rock, light soul, and funky workouts. 

The core band helping Iuso are Reggie Scanlan on bass, Eddie Christmas on drums, Joe Ashlar on keys, with Renee Gros and Sari Jordan on backing vocals. The group interplay swells as the excellent production, engineering (David Farrell) and mixing (Tracey Freeman) brings a vibrant texture to all of the ten songs presented. 

Opening with the soul based outing "My Getaway", the record kicks off on a strong note as the horn work and rich sounds take hold while "What's Gonna Set You Free?" also traffics in these same waters, using excellent guitar work from Iuso. Violinist Rurik Nunan shows up to lend a hand on both "More To The Island (than meets the man)" and the easy rolling instrumental "Rains of Oaxaca". Each of the tracks also use warm organ, bass and nuanced guitar lines to flush out the sound. 

Less successful is when Iuso dips into 80's Steve Winwood inspired waters as "Strongest Child" (with guitar solo from Mike Doussan) and "Look Inside" (with added congas from Michael Skinkus) mellow things out, losing a bit of the songs bite. Better is when Iuso channels more of a Dire Straits sound on the organ backed, guitar rock of "It's Time" and the grooving "Shine On" which deploys layers of light funk and excellent work from the backing vocals in a Trey Anastastio Band like manner.         

A gorgeous instrumental "Arkansas Girl" shows off Iuso's guitar chops with layers of six strings, while album closer "It's Gonna Be OK" wrap things up on an incredibly strong note. It starts life as a stirring piano ballad before swelling into a cathartic, faith filled number that would be completely at home closing any show as a group singalong; reminiscent of Gov't Mule's "Soulshine".     

Named after the fascinating story of the world's loneliest whale, Iuso took pandemic isolation and funneled it into his craft as 52 Hz strongly shows off his dexterous guitar playing, emotive singing and honest songwriting talents. 
Support the artist, buy the album, and peep some video below:

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