ALBUM REVIEW: NEPA blues singer Ed Randazzo asks ‘Who’s That Man?’ with timely delivery
In the era of viral Bob Bolus rants against an openly gay Scranton City Council candidate, local Trump trucks plastered with empty slogans, a bigot abusing her Lackawanna County Commissioner seat for years, and homophobia thinly veiled as “straight pride,” there is one album Northeastern Pennsylvania needs right now, and that album is “Who’s That Man? Collected Songs 2008-2018” by Ed Randazzo. He sings the blues which, I think, is the most American music because it is the sound of the oppressed and disaffected. Welcome to America in 2019.
Pronouns be damned, Randazzo opens his 10-year milestone album with a cover of Nina Simone’s “Be My Husband,” originally written from a female perspective. Is this the kind of subversive gay agenda certain people fear? Did I mention that Ed is gay and proud? He also has cerebral palsy; the first thing he ever said to me was, “I’m so gay I can’t even walk straight.” So, yeah, Ed sings the blues and takes the piss out of society in the process. I knew we would be friends forever.
His take on Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands” seems to ask the question, “Was I right to be so confident singing ‘Be My Husband?’” and “Devil’s Trail” might be wondering about the consequences, so Ed ponders “Who’s That Man?” (with amazing backing vocals by blues great Alexis P. Suter). It would appear he does know the answer as he tosses out his own conventions and sings “I Need a Woman.”
At this point I realize this is an album review, so I’m thrilled to say the musicality of the recording is so spot-on that it left me open to exploit Ed for a little political aside. (I’m sure he’ll be all right with that.) Recorded by Badlees alum Bret Alexander at Saturation Acres in Dupont, the tunes are near sonic truth while still allowing the vinyl pressing I’m listening to hum with warmth.
The B-side brings more of the West Pittston native’s gorgeous deep voice on soulful stand-outs like “Still Cry” (again with Suter), the blue-collar “Work Song,” and a well-done but somewhat unnecessary cover of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” which is the only real knock I have on the record. Sorry, everyone – I do love a bad pun.
Show your pride for real heartfelt local music and pick up this poignant collection, available on edrandazzomusic.com and major digital retailers since its release on Jan. 11. Whatever the news may report, there are still plenty of good things coming out of NEPA, and this album is one of them. Drown out the sounds of hate with some rootsy love.