Tom Principato's Press

Tom Principato is one of the most unique guitarists around, combining his rich blues background with high-energy rock, and a highly charged, emotionally expressive delivery. Here’s what the press has been saying…


Don't be surprised if "Raising The Roof!" also raises the number of Wammie Awards that guitarist Tom Principato has collected over the years-more than 20 at last count.
Recorded in College Park, Md. save for one track, Principato's new album is a rocking, grooving session featuring Hammond B-3 organist Tommy Lepson. It opens with three tunes written or (co-written) by Principato: "Lock and Key," a serving of Gumbo funk peppered with chunky, extended chord guitar riffs and Chris Watling's resonating baritone sax: "Too Damn Funky," a slithery instrumental that lives up to it's billing as soon as Lepson applies some elbow grease; and "In The Middle Of The Night," a haunting Reggae ballad that features Principato and co-composer Lepson sharing soulful vocals.

Eventually a few cover tunes that further reflect Principato's varied tastes come into focus; J.J. Cale's "Lies," Jimmy Smith's "8 Counts For Rita" and the Louis Jordan hit "Fish Fry." Each is given a fresh spin, though the twangy tribute to Smith is particularly colorful and engaging, an expansive showcase not only for Telecaster master Principato but for Lepson, bassist John Perry and drummer Joe Wells.
Capping the album is a live recording of Principato's loose and lighthearted "They Called For 'Stormy Monday' (But 'Mustang Sally' Is Just As Bad!), complete with lots of T-Bone Walker evoking fretwork. Mike Joyce The Washington Post Feb. 22, 2008

It's difficult to understand why this blues-rocking Telecaster master isn't a major contemporary blues/roots star. Principato is sure talented enough and he's been leaving mouths agape with his classy yet searing guitar pyrotechnics over the United States and Europe for the better part of four decades. A solid new album, appropriately titled "Raising The Roof!", might help spread the word, but he's most at home when peeling the paint from Blind Willie's walls with his slashing solos.

— Hal Horowitz-Atlanta Creative Loafing



This review originally ran in Vintage Guitar Magazine June, 2008

TOM PRINCIPATO BAND
Raising The Roof!

Powerhouse Records Principato has long been known as a fine guitar player, but here production and vocals take him to a new level.There's plenty of the stuff you expect from Principato, including funky New Orleans-style rock like "Lock and Key," with horns, organ and precise chording; Fender heaven on the solos. "Too Damn Funky" is exactly that, with a nasty solo and cool chordal work on the outro. "Mi Solea" is an emotional instrumental that gives Principato a chance to show his stuff. His soloing is as clever and on-the-money as you want. The same goes for the workout on Jimmy Smith's "8 Counts For Rita." It's old fashioned greasy, funky soul feel lets Principato show off nice changes and great licks. And the closer, "They Called For Stormy Monday (But Mustang Sally Is Just As Bad!)" will definately find a sympathetic ear in every working musician.

Recorded live and with a perfect rendition of the Bobby "Blue" Bland/Allman Brothers versions of "Stormy Monday," it's lyrics have been adapted to include every song and in some cases every band any musician over the age of 30 is sick of playing.

The good news is, with releases like this one, Tom's bringing new and varied music to that realm.

— John Heidt



Tom Principato Band: Raising The Roof! (Powerhouse 125; 46:09) 3 1/2 stars
Principato, a long-established guitarist in the Washington, DC area, who sings and writes decently, works off a diverse musical palette with blues, and complements of funk, jazz, latin rock and New Orleans R&B. To his credit he projects ease of delivery and gives shape and logic to even his most fierce playing. Joined by his reliable band and Tommy Lepson on organ, he taps into old Santana's spirit on "Bo Bo's Groove" and manifests authentic bittersweet feeling on "Mi Solea"--both instrumentals. The former Powerhouse bandleader locates the joy in songs from J.J. Cale, Louis Jordan, and Jimmy Smith, respectively.

— Frank-John Hadley Down Beat magazine May, 2008


Music City Blues Soc. newsletter, Nashville, Tenn.
Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Tom Principato is one of the most exciting guitarists on the contemporary scene today. Hailing from Washington, DC, he has won just about every award given out by the Washington Area Music Association, and he's played with the likes of Big Mama Thornton, Jimmy Thackery, and Danny Gatton. His Powerhouse Records release of "Raising The Roof" is an adventurous romp thru nine cuts, (six originals) of a gorgeous gumbo of blues, soul, funk, reggae, and general good times a-rollin'!
The backing musicians on this set are great players in their own right, as well. Tommy Lepson's B-3 work adds the spice to this mix, along with John Perry on bass, Joe Wells on drums, and Josh Howell on percussion. There is a huge New Orleans influence on this CD, from the polyrhythms played among the musicians, and Tom's passionate vocals and guitar lines. A good example of this is the downright-fonky groove set up in Tom's version of Louis Jordan's "Fish Fry," stripped down to a cool second-line beat, vastly different from the original. The instrumental "Too Damn Funky" further explores this groove, and everyone gets a chance to shine on this one. Tom goes a wee bit south of N'Awlins to bring a reggae-fied approach to the excellent "In The Middle Of The Night." The percussion and organ fuel Tom's vocals in "Lies," while "BoBo's Groove" has a Latin-tinged, Santana feel to it.

However, nothing tops our favorite, the hilarious tale of songs played about one billion times too many. It's called "They Called For 'Stormy Monday', But 'Mustang Sally' Is Just As Bad," where we learn that the "Free Bird flies on Friday," and, as far as requests for Jimmy Buffett songs....NO WAY!!

— Sheryl and Don Crow


DC based bluesman Tom Principato comes out swinging straight from note 1. The band is on fire and burning as they crank out blues tinged funk, jazz rock and straight blues. They jam like Jeff Beck and Elvin Bishop and Principato can unleash Latin spice like Santana. Everything they do is done with a tasty flair and that includes a moving tribute to NOLA called “Fish Fry” and his equally feeling tribute to LA women in “Lock and Key.” The Hammond, the percussion, the rhythm section and Tom’s axe aid and abet while giving comfort to the grateful ears who get to hear this Southern gentleman lay it on down. The cuts are extended and fine musical expressions filled with original riffs and style. Even the closer commands attention with its witty lyrics and title “They called for “Stormy Monday” (but “Mustang Sally” Is Just as Bad!)”. Recorded live, the cut is ROTFL and it rolls it done. Hoo-hah, this Washington legend belts one past the Beltway in a home run.

— 9 snaves Doctor Blues – Long Island Blues Society – March 24, 2008


Don’t be surprised if "Raising the Roof!" also raises the number of Wammie Awards that blues guitarist Tom Principato has collected over the years -- more than a dozen at last count.

Recorded in College Park save for one track, Principato's new album is a rocking, grooving session featuring Hammond B-3 organist Tommy Lepson. It opens with three tunes written (or co-written) by Principato: "Lock and Key," a serving of gumbo funk peppered with chunky, extended chord guitar riffs and Chris Watling's resonating baritone sax; "Too Damn Funky," a slithery instrumental that lives up to its billing as soon as Lepson applies some elbow grease; and "In the Middle of the Night," a haunting reggae ballad that features Principato and co-composer Lepson sharing soulful vocals.

Eventually a few cover tunes that further reflect Principato's varied tastes come into focus: J.J. Cale's "Lies," Jimmy Smith's "8 Counts for Rita" and the Louis Jordan hit "Fish Fry." Each is given a fresh spin, though the twangy tribute to Smith is particularly colorful and engaging, an expansive showcase not only for Telecaster master Principato but for Lepson, bassist John Perry and drummer Joe Wells.
Capping the album is a live recording of Principato's loose and lighthearted "They Called for 'Stormy Monday' (But 'Mustang Sally' Is Just as Bad)," complete with lots of T-Bone Walker-evoking fretwork.

— Mike Joyce, The Washington Post 2008


Recorded long before Hurricane Katrina tore up half the Gulf Coast, "Guitar Gumbo" is Tom Principato's love song to Louisiana, a multi-track celebration of its culture, mystique and allure.

As always, Principato's Fender-charged fretwork generates lots of Stratocaster sparks and Telecaster twang, along with some fiendishly syncopated runs on Professor Longhair's "hey Now Baby" and other tracks. The self-penned instrumental "Return of the Voodoo King" quickly stands out on the album, as does "Louisiana (Been Callin' Me)," which features Tommy Lepson on Hammond organ and the Nighthawks' Mark Wenner on harmonica. Other guests occasionally join Principato, bassist John Perry and drummer Joe Wells, including a few local horn players and pianist Kevin McKendree, best known for his work with soul man Delbert McClinton. As the album's title suggests, though, not all the tunes evoke Louisiana. "Tango'd Up in the Blues," one of Principato's most sensuous and atmospheric compositions, points even farther south, and David Kitchen's "If Love Is Blind" introduces a roots-rock, boogie-powered diversion. Not to be overlooked is "Tipsy," the album's coda, which reverberates with Chuck Berry-flavored bends and double stops.

— Mike Joyce, The Washington Post 2005


On 16 tracks taped in concert or studio settings between 1975 and 2000, Principato sings and bends guitar strings with a casual sort of intensity. Covering the breadth of ensemble blues styles, he's smarter and more entertaining and honor-bound than the general lot of blues-oriented guitarists active today. An improvisatory way of thinking improves his playing. Among the album highlights are the fireworks-display instrumental "In Orbit" and the remake of old jump blues "Nosey Joe," with its original singer Bullmoose Jackson.

— Downbeat Magazine 2005
Rated Four Stars


Although Not One Word is not for guitarists only, the 10 instrumentals that make up up Tom Principato’s new album are certainly a picker’s delight… Principato covers a lot of ground here, from trusty blues shuffles to exotic international excursions.

— Mike Joyce, The Washington Post

Although Tom Principato is primarily known as a rootsy, blues-rock guitarist and vocalist, virtuosic instrumentals have always been an integral part of his live shows. For his latest album, Not One Word, Principato put his voice on hold and gave his guitar all the limelight. Many of the techniques and tones Principato used were inspired by his guitar heroes. For some tunes, such as the Latin-rocker “Santana Claus,” the influence is obvious. Elsewhere, Principato’s inspirations aren’t so transparent. For example, “One Night in Hindustan” was inspired by the music of Hindustani slide guitarists.
— Adam Levy, Guitar Player Magazine, December 2000

The first thing you notice [about Not One Word] is the killer tones, great guitar sounds, and wonderful sense of melody highlighted throughout. From the tour de force opener, “One Night in Hindustan” to the Beck-esque “Another Place, Another Time,” Tom plays great.
— Vintage Guitar Magazine, April 2001

Tom Principato has long been known as a guitar player’s guitar player. Blues is perhaps what Principato is best known for, but like [Danny] Gatton, there’s not a style with which he is not atl least conversant, if he hasn’t outright mastered it. [On Not One Word] Principato displays a deft touch in a variety of settings, from the latin-tinged rock of “Santana Claus” to the delicate nylon-string picking of the atmospheric “Mi Solea.”
— Ninevolt Magazine, Virginia Beach VA

Live and Kickin’ is the rough-toned but right stuff you’d expect to hear from a blues veteran who’s been working the club circuit for decades. Principato didn’t go in for any sweetening here, just the sound of his Tele and Strat guitars up close and personal… forcefully underpinned by bassist John Perry and drummer ElTorro Gamble… tunes that veer back and forth between expansive romps and exquisite six-string meditations… Principato guitar work at its most eloquent and expressive.
— Mike Joyce, The Washington Post

It’s his guitar prowess that merits attention. Principato effortlessly shifts tones… He’s an excellent note bender and a concise, gritty player with an experienced ear for building to multiple climaxes in his solos.
— Dave Hiltbrand, People Magazine

A textbook example of heart-and-soul axe-wielding, teary bent notes coming up hard against choked, breathless phrases.
— Ted Drozdowski, The Boston Phoenix

Quick and clean, so what? Plenty of guitarists can make the same claim. The thing that sets Tom Principato apart from so many blues/rock axe slingers is taste, even as he steams through a stinging, smoking set, he never forgets to play the spaces. With a repertoire of pounding string strangling shuffles, screeching Texas-style blues, airy jazz hummers, and crisp swings, Principato likes to keep his set list as fluid as his playing, which builds and crashes, subtle and smooth, to tooth rattling and string strangling, then back again.
— Greg Land, Creative Loafing, Atlanta GA

Let me tell you what I felt… Exhilaration! Exuberation! I sat wide-eyed and slack-jawed as Tom enchanted me with his talent, bathing me body and soul, with his fine, fine playing. “Virtuoso” is a word too easily applied to the undeserving these days, but its a word that fits this guitar master perfectly. I’m willing to say that Tom Principato is destined to achieve legend status.
— Layla Ferrante, The Musicians Exchange

Principato is a great unsung hero of the blues guitar, and he further demonstrates this point on “I Know What You’re Thinkin’!,” one of the best guitar oriented rock and blues albums since Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Live Alive.” He really unleashes, grabbing listeners by the throat with his searing, nearly out of control attack. Sounds like this guy is trying to stake a claim. He’s earned my respect.
— Bill Milkowski, Guitar World

Long known to guitar aficionados for a fluid style that encompasses blues, jazz, country and rock and roll, Tom Principato appears to be on the verge of some serious success. ”Blazing Telecasters,” an album he recorded with Danny Gatton in 1984, was finally released last year, to critical acclaim; it is being considered for a Grammy nomination.
— Jim Coen, Guitar World

A master of give and take, Principato makes sweat bead up on your forehead as he slowly and purposefully bends the strings.
— Dick Johnston, Reflex Magazine

It’s a pleasure to hear a guitarist with such formidable ability play with true grace and style; using his most stinging licks sparingly and with maximum effect while laying back and playing those really deep blues at just the right moments.
— Dave Clingan, Blues Notes, Portland OR

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