Album review: Tucci’s ‘Olivia’ is a match made in heaven

Tahoe Onstage

“Dangerous” Dan Toler’s spirit lives on with “Olivia.”

“Olivia” serves as a natural bridge between the Toler-Tucci Band and the reinvigorated, hardier blues-rocking Tucci. Guitarist “Dangerous” Dan Toler played an integral role in the original Dickey Betts & Great Southern before following Betts into the re-formed Allman Brothers Band in 1978. He later played in the Gregg Allman Band, and then re-joined Great Southern in 2001. At the tail-end of 2013, Toler connected with his Sarasota, Florida, friend Steve “Doc” Tucci and his band to make “Doc’s Hideaway.” Sadly, that lone Toler-Tucci Band album stands as the final testament to Dan Toler’s enormous talents and beautiful tone. He passed away two months later after battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) at age 64. But, his spirit lives on here.

Enter veteran Delta bluesman Larry McCray, who stepped in to lend guitar and vocals to half of “Olivia,” well-complementing singer/guitarist Steve, his brother Michael Tucci on drums, bassist Harry DeBusk, and sax player Shawn Murphy. Donnie Richards or Dan Ryan add vivid keyboards to every song on this fine new album.

The games begin with “High Roller,” a cards-on-the-table, here’s-where-it’s-at-with-me declaration of fun, responsibility be damned. McCray leads the charge in pliant, robust, Southern voice while he offers up some scintillating leads. The title song then bops into place, a little love-blues that Tucci sings in a way that cements his connection to his lady, “Olivia.”

They dig deep into the Otis Rush-inspired “I Don’t Need It,” McCray growling out the rejection and defiance while he and Tucci trade stylish barbs that nonetheless cut deep. In “Hey Florida,” Tucci celebrates their home base and its music with an Allman Brothers-inspired, country-salsa, twin-guitar-fired melody, especially evident in Tucci’s airy slide. The piercing, wallowing blues of “Without You” also calls to mind the Allmans, but in tougher blues guise, McCray pouring out the regret. The man, and the band, stand out particularly tall on that song. In honor of Mr. Toler, the somber blues “Play by the Rules” is reprised from the previous album, offering those unfamiliar with the man’s magic, to witness it one more time.

Otherwise, overall, a match made in Florida is a match made in heaven for Tucci and Larry McCray.

-Tom Clarke

  • Tucci
    ‘Olivia’
    Label: Hideaway Music
    Release: July 14, 2017

About Tom Clarke

From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 20 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, and the 45-year timelines and ever-growing family trees of The Allman Brothers Band and Los Lobos. Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage. Tom and his wife Karen raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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