Vince Agwada is not a household name. This blues-rocker plays an incendiary guitar and he and his band can light any place on fire. He should be better known and his second album perhaps can now help correct that. This one follows up his 2008 effort “Eyes of the City” and it was all written and produced by Vince. Agwada has been a fixture on the Chicago blues scene for 25 years. Starting at Theresa’s and Buddy Guy’s Checkerboard Lounge, he jammed and played with the best of them, including Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Otis Rush, Syl Johnson and Magic Slim. The late Lefty Dizz let Agwada sit in on the Blue Monday jams as a teenager. Agwada has also toured for decades with an equally impressive list of legends. Now with two CDs released, the world has a great sampling of what this guy can do.
The driving and dirty beat of “Chi Town State of Mind” opened the CD and it up almost literally beat me to a pulp. I was tired after listening to it- it was that big of a song! The pile driving beat, heavy guitars, and down and dirty harp are Chicago blues and rock taken to an intense level. Followed up by another rocking song called “Blindsided”, we get more stinging guitar. Minus the harp on this one, the solo work revolves completely around Agwada’s guitar play. He plays his heart out again, but then follows those two up with a funked-up song with lots of the clavinet called “President”. It offers a contrast to the rockers and shows us some diversity. The instrumental “Head Too Tight” offers more cool stuff, with sax and some more keys added. He also shows he can handle the slow stuff with “Black Rain”, where his guitar wails so well.
Orlando Wright, Andre Howard and Vic Jackson are mostly on bass, Clyde Davis, Brady Williams and Steve Gillis are mostly on drums, Roosevelt Purfoy adds his keys and many others contribute here. Sugar Blue makes an appearance on two of the tracks and Larry McCray adds his guitar to the mix on one of them- “Right on Time”; very nicely done. The Chicago Horns join Sugar Blue as guests on “Shake It Up”, too. The title track is down tempo, rocking blues, one of the slower tracks. He closes with “She Never Said”, the second instrumental and third slow song, allowing listeners time to recover their heart beats as he closes in a nice and mellow manner. Funky, bluesy, rocking stuff all over the place- It is all quite the experience. If you like guitar and lots of it you will love this. Agwada lays it on heavy and shows us what he’s got. Just be ready because it is a hot and heavy ride!
–Steve Jones – Blues Blast Magazine
Vince Agwada got his musical education in the blues clubs of Chicago, often hanging out at Theresa’s or Buddy Guy’s Checkerboard Lounge. Agwada took advantage of opportunities to jam with the likes of Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Syl Johnson and Left Dizz, among others. From the early 1980’s on, Agwada has toured the US with the likes of Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, Junior Wells, Sugar Blue, The Dells and Bernie Mac, as well as with his own bands, One Eyed Jax and the Vince Agwada Band. Agwada recently released Basic Blue, the follow-up to his 2008 solo debut, Eyes Of The City. Agwada sticks with his blues roots, but spends more time fleshing out the ground that lies between the blues and its wayward child, rock n roll.
Basic Blue opens with “Chi-Town State Of Mind”, a heavy, fuzzy blues-rocker that’s as gritty as the city it proclaims love for. Both guitar and harmonica produce distinctive growling sounds here in a dynamic and energetic opener that sets the bar high. “Blindsided” is a darker, grungier brand of blues with a heavy feel. It’s a fun tune about getting trapped in something you want anyway; very entertaining. “President” is a funk-laden blues number with some wicked guitar work from Agwada, who shreds his way through the song with an almost manic glee. Agwada slows things down with the low-key classic rock-style power ballad “Big City Blues”; a solid album track that serves as notice that almost anything goes here.
“Black Rain” is a down tempo number that’s excessively dark and features some of the best guitar work on the album. It’s balanced off by the party blues/rock of “Shake It Up”. Just try to sit still; I dare you. “Sirius Biz” gets a bit more experimental, with an extended jam featuring some Tower Of Power style horn work over the top. This is catchy, funky and danceable all at once. “Right On” is solid with some intriguing harmonica work, but the ham-handed voiceover kills the mood. Agwada returns to the hard-driving blues/rock blend he opened with on “Train”, before closing with the mellow ruminations of “She Never Said…” Blues rears its head occasionally, but much of the song is atmospheric in sound; lyric in melody.
Vince Agwada takes several strides forward on Basic Blue, with a sound evolving along the fault line that separates rock n roll, modern R&B and the blues. Basic Blue shows a successful artist, confident in his abilities, who continues to stretch the bounds of his muse. In general, that effort is exemplary on Basic Blue. Agwada shows a distinctive blend of technical skill, resourcefulness and pure drive that sets Basic Blue apart from the harried pack of blue rock bands out there. Basic Blue is definitely worth spending some time with.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
–Wildy Haskell – Wildy’s World
The blues ain’t nothin’ but a feeling and, in the case of Vince Agwada, that feeling is good. “Basic Blue” is only his second album but you’d never guess that from the practised polish that he brings to his performance on guitar. More than a revivalist, he nonetheless successfully revives that streetwise blues sound that electrified Chicago but a few decades ago.
“Chi-Town State of Mind” might be the album opener but it is also a clear statement of intent as it bumps, grinds and slides its way through the back alley dives that must have inspired its inception. “Blindsided” likewise keeps the guitar to the fore before “President” goes all seventies funk on us.
There is heart and soul everywhere – so much so much so that Lonnie Brooks comes straight to mind even if Vince Agwada is definitely a child of the urban jungle – and on the big production numbers, like the extended horn powered groove of “Shake It Up”, he displays a surefootedness that marks him out as a true believer in the power of the blues.
Albums like this make me happy. Way back when, I started out on a diet of vinyl of Alligator and Antone and greatly enjoyed all that I consumed. Vince Agwada reminds me of those times and the best compliment that I can pay him is to say that “Basic Blue” deserves to be released on vinyl.
— Bluesbunny – Bluesbunny.com
Chicago guitarist, composer and producer Vince Agwada has worked the Chicago music scene for over 25 years. This heavily blues and rock oriented musician has worked with artists like Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Magic Slim, Otis Rush, Syl Johnson and Sammy Lawhorn, to list but a few. Of his many awards the most standout one was when, in 1996, Agwada was listed as one of the top 40 Blues artists under 40 by Living Blues Magazine. Basic Blue is his second release as a leader.
Agwada has a heavily rock driven feel to his blues. Seriously punched and driven by drummer Clyde Davis whose vicious two fisted style plays well with Agwada’s thick chordal ala-Jimmy Hendrix guitar textures, Agawada approaches his music with a pedal to the metal take no prisoners attitude. Orlando Wright’s bass is totally locked into the ensemble so perfectly it’s almost impossible to pull the sound of his instrument from the guitar textures. It’s as if he and Agwada are one instrument.
Most of the tunes are of the power thrash-blues style, at which Agwada excels. Both “Chi-Town State Of Mind” and “Blindsided,” the lead in tracks on the CD, are of this style and open the disc perfectly. There is, however, some diversity. “President,” for example, has a nice half-beat style that is accentuated by the addition of Roosevelt Purifoy’s keyboard work. The instrumental “Head Too Tight” adds Michael Jackson’s spiced up saxophone into the almost pop-oriented backbeat, and “Shake It Up” has a three horn wind section that further helps to eliminate any monotony that might ensue. The down tempo “Black Rain” is so swampy you may have to play the track a number of times before you want to leave; it’s that inviting.
Agwada obviously knows what he’s doing and plays his hand extremely well on this disc. For seriously diehard blues fans this disc will thrill.
— Thomas R. Erdmann – Jazzreview.com
The confident, muscular Eyes of the City testifies to Vince Agwada’s experience as a musician, songwriter, and producer. It’s a back-to-basics slab of modern Blues with a gritty Chicago edge. The slick (but not too slick) album opener “It’s a Shame” gives listeners an idea of what to expect. Agwada’s rhythm section is top-notch, particularly on “Does it Really Matter?” where perky music contrasts with gloomy lyrics, and “Bottle,” where drummer Brian Jones plays a curiously timed shuffle that almost sounds backwards. Agwada’s guitar work is another strength, and he can be forgiven for getting showy at times: He’s been in the business long enough to have earned it and is good enough to pull it off. The simple structure of the instrumental “I’m Coming Home” gives Agwada plenty of room to cut loose, and he stretches out on the slower numbers too, especially “Ellie” and “Hard to Cry”. Most of the lyrical themes run in time-honored courses: finding love, losing it, pretending to have it, and not wanting it. Agwada does get slightly political on “Tubed Out,” in which an aural collage of recent news broadcasts serves as a backdrop for a complaint that the world has become too complicated — possibly the first ever Blues song about information overload. The title track is the exception to this album’s overall tone; with programmed rhythm tracks and a bowed upright bass backing a somber, reflective meditation on an urban night, it’s both a love song and a plea in a sadder, quieter mode than the rest of the satisfying Eyes of the City.
–Genevieve Williams – Blues Revue January 2009
“Eyes of the City” is the impressive debut release from veteran Chicago-based musician Vince Agwada. The guitarist/singer/composer/producer provides an electrifying collection of self-produced songs covering many styles including Blues, Rock, Jazz and R&B. Agwada’s sound is defined by his signature blistering guitar work, husky vocals, and crafty arrangements. The aptly titled “Confidence Man” encapsulates his highly-original, driving, aggressive sound. His noteworthy blues guitar is on full display with the swampy “Car Wash Blues” and the slow-moving but deliberate “Hard to Cry.” “Come on In” introduces us to Agwada’s ferocious slide work and further illustrates his mastery of the blues guitar. Agwada also shows his versatility with the upbeat shuffle tune “Bottle,” the contemporary jazz feel of “Ellie,” and the title track “Eyes of the City,” which features a lush string arrangement and soprano sax melody. “Eyes of the City” is an exciting debut release where Agwada shines not only in his artistic and musical abilities, but in his production capabilities as well. This release has a lot to offer to the fans of Rock and Blues in the style of Albert Collins and Buddy Guy.
-Rodney and the RadioIndy. com Reviewer Team
The world is still a very small place, my review of the CD “Finally” by Harmonica Hinds is, so to speak, still warm, and here is another artist who is from right around the corner and is connected to some of the same artists. These gentlemen have total isolation from one another yet coincidentally in the same week we received CDs from both. Only after discussing each shortly after the other did I notice the similarities. Like Hinds, Blues guitarist Vince Agwada is from Chicago, played extensively in a club owned by Buddy Guy, though it was not “Legends” but instead the “Checkerboard Lounge” and between the names of friends and influences listed by each, we find many musicians in common including John Primer and Lefty Dizz. Yet the music of Vince is in many ways very different from that of his fellow townsman. Vince makes more modern, contemporary blues with light rock influences. The sound of Vince Agwada is in line with what we have come to expect from groups like Michael Hill’s Bluesmob and Michael Burks. Modern, funky blues songs with razor-edged guitar solos. Vince also debuts with this outing his knowledge and skills as an engineer and producer. In his home studio he recorded all of the vocals, keyboards, horns and of course the vast majority of the guitars, and this completely on his own. That being said, you will be stunned by this perfect first production. If you’re not afraid of harder contemporary blues, you will not only fully enjoy Blues songs like “Car Wash Blues”, “Bottle” and “Hard To Cry”, but also the more rock-oriented songs such as “Tubed Out”. The wonderful, relaxed “Come On In” with its slight JJ Cale influence, and a wonderful slide and Dobro solo is among my favorites, but nothing can beat the masterful “Ellie”, an atmospheric guitar instrumental which rivals Santana or Gary Moore at their best. This ode to his deceased grandmother is pretty wonderful. The only cover on this album is the unexpected, and completely reworked “Confidence Man” by John Hiatt. Vince Agwada with this debut has immediately created a very nice introduction to his music. (translated from Flemish)
— Freddy Celis RootsTime September 13th 2008
NEW RELEASE PART 2 – CARRYING IT ON: The answer to Buddy Guy’s musical question above can be found in the new release Eyes Of The City (Rocketnoodle) by master guitarist/vocalist/songwriter/ producer Vince Agwada.
Agwada is an exceptional guitarist who combines technical prowess with soul. Eyes Of The City is a blast of modern and contemporary blues, blues rock, R&B, funk, jazz, and pop that will take you back to the 1975-90 hotbed of live blues in Chicago. From the opener, “It’s A Shame” (a funky groove featuring Agwada’s flawless fretwork and dead-on lyrics, including a rap), to the closer, the title track (a sophisticated jazz/pop tune reminiscent of a smoky ’70s film noir soundtrack), Agwada and company smoke and burn through 12 originals and one cover, John Hiatt’s “Confidence Man.”
I first heard Agwada play in Toronto in the early ’80s when he was on tour with Guy. Once a staple on the worldwide scene, Agwada retired from the road for a number of years to work in the studio, where he honed his technical chops at Chicago Trax. He has returned to performing with a vengeance on this, his first solo album, where he is accompanied by the best musicians of his generation. Harp guru Sugar Blue (who lives in Milan) guests on rocker “Rain,” and Bill McFarland And The Chicago Horns appear on the jazzy, “Does It Really Matter?”
Agwada is a fully realized musician who brings his creativity to whatever genre he plays. He came of age at heady time in American music, when various musical styles co-existed. Eyes Of The City is at once an homage to this musical potpourri and a welcome return to the present of this gifted artist.
– Beverly Zeldin-Palmer Illinois Entertainer August 29th 2008
Vince Agwada – Eyes of the City
Eyes of the City is a very enjoyable album and gives a clear picture of Vince Agwada as an artist in his own right, not just the summation of those that came before him…
by John McCormick Illinois BluesBlast August 28, 2008
Eyes Of The City
2008 Vince Agwada
Singer and guitarist Vince is from Chicago where he was born in 1959 and got his start playing at Theresa’s and The Checkerboard; he jammed with such esteemed figures as Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Lefty Dizz, Sammy Lawhorn and others. He has contributed to numerous albums and videos, either as a musician or composer, in his 25 years on the Windy City blues scene, but this is his debut CD under his own name. He describes his music as ‘new millennium blues’ and I won’t argue with that. This is generally loud and brash, post-Alligator ‘high energy blues’, guitar based and often using funky rhythms behind Vince’s muscular vocals on a programme of 13 original numbers – some of which are quite notable and stay long in the memory.
There is a variety of modern styles too – ‘Blooze’ and ‘Tubed Out’ are heavy, ‘Does It Really Matter?’ is a jazzy strut, ‘Bottle’ is a fairly traditional slide guitar shuffle, the title track is a moody, jazzy, spacey, sax-led piece, and ‘Had To Cry’ is Albert King styled; ‘Come On In’ has an unusual rhythm and slide guitar – the nearest (but not that close) comparison I can come up with is the Beatles’ ‘Come Together’! Working from a promo, I cannot tell you just who plays what on this album, but rest assured, they are all top-notch musicians – as is Vince.
Any lover of modern blues will find plenty to enjoy here.
—– Norman Darwen – Blues Art Journal
“Eyes of the City”
Vince has put together one hell of a Rockin Blues mix on this just under 78 minute 13 track CD “Eyes of the City”. Vince is a master at his trade of being one of the best Blues Guitarists in the game… shredding out some of the most smoking Blues tracks to come out of Chicago from any non-label artist we’ve received over the past ten years. As Vince has on his website… this is the “New Millennium Blues”, and it’s turning heads from Chicago to around the world. Pick up this disc if you want to get some amazing blues today.
Tracks of interest: Confidence Man, Hard To Cry, Rain, and Car Wash Blues.
John & Clarence of BluesWebRadio August 27th 2008
Vince Agwada – Eyes Of The City
2008, Vince Agwada
Agwada provides us with a collection of gritty blues-rock songs on his debut CD, Eyes Of The City. There’s a real Chicago feel that pervades the album that is part Funk and is fueled by Agwada’s masterful fretwork on the guitar. Blooze is an effort worthy of Hendrix, and rolls right into Does It Really Matter?, a big-band style piece that’s pure early Rhythm and Blues. Agwada has a pleasant voice to listen to, but his guitar playing is the real star here. The man throws off riffs like thunderstorms spawn tornadoes in the summer. They come quicker than you can imagine and devastate you before you even know what hit you.
Agwada switches back and forth between the gritty Chicago Blues-Rock of the early seventies and the classic Rhythm-and Blues sound that helped create early rock and roll (and inspired an entire generation of Motown stars). I’m Coming Home is a delicious instrumental gem with smokin’ hot harmonica, and the legendary Sugar Blue make a guest appearance on Rain (always a treat). Tracks such as Rain, Confidence Man, and Hard To Cry make it impossible to put this disc away. Hard To Cry sounds like a tribute to Texas school of Blues that made Stevie Ray Vaughan an icon. The title track, Eyes Of The City confused me a bit just because it seemed totally out of context with the rest of the album — more of a slow jams vibe, but Agwada’s vocals carry the song nicely.
All in all, Eyes Of The City is an outstanding effort. Agwada conducts a master class in blues guitar before our very ears. The songwriting in general is very strong, and the CD captures some of the energy you might find in a live performance. Eyes Of The City earns a strong recommendation.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5) Wildy’s World August 15th 2008
Vince Agwada: Eyes of the City (Rocketnoodle)
Veteran axeman Vince Agwada has been peeling off stinging guitar lines on the Chicago blues scene since the early 1980s. As a teenager, Agwada started hanging out at the legendary Theresa’s Lounge and the Checkerboard Lounge where he jammed with the likes of Otis Rush, Junior Wells, Syl Johnson, Johnny Littlejohn, Buddy Guy, Sammy Lawhorn, Louis Meyers, and Lefty Dizz, who quite generously, was the first to let Agwada sit in and show his stuff on one of his legendary “Blue Monday” jam sessions. He soon become a much in demand sideman and he toured extensively with Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, Son Seals, Sugar Blue, Magic Slim, Junior Wells and many others through the late ‘80s and ‘90s. In 1996, Living Blues Magazine voted him one of the Top 40 Blues artists under 40 in the country and he made a stellar appearance on Son Seals’ scorching “Live at B.L.U.E.S.” album. He’s appeared on sessions with Buddy Guy & Junior Wells, Bill McFarland, Ron Prince, Chicago Beau, and others, while helping launch the Chicago Blues Experience, an amazing traditional Chicago blues ensemble that also features the mighty Russ Green on harmonica.
“Eyes of the City” is the long awaited self-produced debut that finds the journeyman guitarist tearing loose on an exciting 13-song collection of blues, rock, jazz and R&B based numbers that will blow your socks off. Check out Agwada’s muscular fretwork on such scorching tracks as “Blooze” and “I’m Coming Home” and you’ll soon discover why this great player is the guitarist of choice for some of the best known names in the blues. Other highlights include the fine “Ellie” with its strong contemporary jazz feel, and the magnificent “Come On In,” that features some of Agwada’s vicious slide work. Harmonica virtuoso Sugar Blue guests on the fine “Rain,” while “It’s a Shame,” “Car Wash Blues,” and “Hard To Cry” find Agwada putting his personal stamp on some of the most engaging contemporary blues to be released this year. “Eyes of the City” is a terrific new album that is available to purchase via Agwada’s MySpace site, or you can order your copy on his website at www.vinceagwada.com. (RL)
Rob’s Blues July 15th 2008