Tom Principato is one of those guitarists who has been around for a long time. He’s on the fringe of lots of stuff, has played with tons of great guitarists, and makes pretty darn good records. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the instructional books he’s done.
So, this DVD is a lot of fun for fans of Tom and guitar. It collects a whole bunch of videos involving Tom. Now, some of these were obviously shot on home video by family or friends, and some of them a long time ago. So, the quality is not always great, either from a picture standpoint, or an audio standpoint. That said, it’s still well worth a look.
A lot of the videos are of Tom and his bands playing live around his home base of Virginia. An incendiary “Give Me All the Love You’ve Got” shows off his chops and the feel of the DVD. “Stranger’s Eyes” is a fine tune recorded in 1996 that lets Tom show off his ballad side. “In Orbit” is a shuffle with great jazzy licks that you don’t usually hear blues guitarists incorporate in their solos.
While the cuts with Tom and the boys are fine, it’s the videos with guest appearances that will draw the attention of most guitarists. There’s a clip of Tom and Albert Lee doing “I’m On Fire,” from the German music show “Ohne-Filter,” that just cooks. Tom’s rock and roll soloing and Albert’s normal great mix of jazz, country, and the blues propel this one. You gotta check out the two guitarists trading fours. There’s a lot of smiles going around, and for good reason. There’s also a cut from 1984 featuring Tom with Danny Gatton. It’s fun to watch, even though it’s a bit out of sync. Just a second or two, but enough to occasionally drive you crazy.
A certifiable highlight is “Cross Cut Saw,” recorded in 1994 with Little Jimmy King sitting in. King pushes Tom and the whole band to incredible heights with his great playing and great guitar sound. It’s one of those truly magical musical moments. Little Jimmy was a fine player that was lost to us at a way-too-young age.
In all, this is a lot of fun. While not someone the average Joe knows, Tom kind of represents a lot of guys out there who’ve been playing great for a lot of years, but for whatever reason aren’t “famous.” This chronicles that career, all the way back to a great version of “Frosty” cut in 1976. And, again, like much of the DVD, the sound isn’t great, but it’ll do.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Nov. ’04 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.