Chris Casello Combo

Live Review: The Chris Casello Combo at P.J.'s Lager House in Detroit, MI

Material: Attending a Chris Casello show is like ear candy for vintage guitar-oriented enthusiasts. The band takes you on a two- hour journey that ignites the senses and gets you on the dance floor. Original tunes like “Opus de Otis” and “Fine and Dandy” span the gamut from swinging rock and blues to pedal steel country flavorings. Classic American Songbook contributions come by way of gems from Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, Esther Phillips, Gary U.S. Bonds and Willie Dixon.

Musicianship: This combo is a road-tested quartet that plays off each other’s energy and freely transmits it to the crowd. Casello is a consummate showman and a complete guitarist. He embodies the chops, wit and charisma of all the masters, from Les Paul and James Burton to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Brian Setzer. Lead vocalist Tammi Savoy not only plays the role of elegant chanteuse to the hilt, but she is the real deal. When she sings a tune like Sarah Vaughan’s “Whatever Lola Wants” or something by Ruth Brown, she embraces the natural and bluesy essence of the artist and the material.

Meanwhile, you certainly can’t stay in your seat, thanks to bassist Jesse Woelfel and drummer Russ Deluca. From rockabilly rave-ups to gentle ballads they always find a balance and are one of the best rhythm sections on the scene today.

Performance: The band opened with an original instrumental that set the night’s pace, with a swinging groove. That led to the classic slow and burning “Harlem Nocturne.” At this juncture Ms. Savoy entered in a stunning yellow dress and, with her captivating mix of gutsy emotion and mellow phrasing, commanded the room right away. She and Casello really worked well together on numbers like Willie Dixon’s “Ain’t Gonna Be Your Monkey Man No More” and their original bopper “Uh-Huh.” Also, Casello’s fluid maneuvering from standard six-string guitars to pedal steel throughout the night was sonically mind-bending as well as a visual treat.

Summary: The Chris Casello Combo is an attraction that is certain to please any audience that digs virtuoso guitar work, timeless songwriting and an upbeat vibe. They are a rough and ready group that is tailor-made for everything from mid-size clubs to festivals, casinos and beyond.

Contact: christophercasello@comcast.net

Web: chriscasello.com

Players: Chris Casello, guitars, vocals; Tammi Savoy, lead vocals; Jesse Woelfel, stand up bass, vocals; Russ Deluca, drums, vocals