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Piazza's music ready for bigger audience

Tough and Tender
Tough and Tender
By Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers

Tone-Cool Records: 1997

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This review first appeared in the September 27, 1997 edition of the American Reporter.

All the ingredients are there for a major breakthrough. Good looks, great music, hard work. And still it isn't happening for Rod Piazza, at least not on a level he and his crew deserve.

Piazza and his Mighty Flyers are one of the very hottest West Coast blues bands – ever. Piazza's driving, soaring harmonica can still send audiences into ecstasy, his wife Honey Piazza remains one of the best boogie woogie pianists, and guitarist Rick "L.A. Holmes" Holmstrom has the hollow-body sound down pat. Bassist Bill Stuve and drummer Steve Mugalian are rock-steady on rhythm.

In short, the music cooks. Tough, swinging blues with a strong streak of rock 'n' roll tossed in. These guys should be all over the airwaves – instead they're still playing one-nighters in clubs all over the country, some 30 years after Piazza started out.

Is their new album, "Tough and Tender," their best ever? Hard to say that – would kind of denigrate their earlier efforts, too. It's sure as hell a lot better than 99.99 percent of what's on the radio, though. Piazza's chromatic harp playing is in top form, and he continues to get better as a singer – more confident, more comfortable, better able to grab hold of a song and own it.

The songs are top-notch; accessible and pop-oriented while still every bit the blues. It's a winning formula that has to pay off some day – if not for Piazza and the Flyers, then for the millions of people out there whose souls are starving to death on Top 40 radio.