Aimsel Ponti's Review of Fat Knuckle Freddy in Maine Today, Portland Press Herald

Face the Music with Aimsel Ponti
Posted: November 24, 2015


Fat Knuckle Freddy

Fat Knuckle Freddy

You can call him Al if you must, but Al Giusto’s moniker these days is Fat Knuckle Freddy. He adopted this name when he broke and dislocated his fretboard pinkie at the middle knuckle. Said knuckle is bigger than it should be, and it points a few degrees outward. The silver lining is that it gives him a little extra stretch on the fretboard and one hell of a clever name.

Fat Knuckle Freddy is a composer, instrumentalist and songwriter. He plays and composes primitive American music in styles he describes as “music noir” and “porch-stomping, bone-rattling blues.” He plays baritone guitar, fretless guitar, resonator guitar, Weissenborn lap steel guitar, acoustic guitar and perhaps most interestingly, three- and four-string cigar box guitars. He mostly plays slide guitar with a bottleneck and sometimes standard, finger-picking style.

But these are just words, albeit it ones that made me want to throw my headphones on immediately and get down to business with “The Torn Labrum, Bone Spur, Lazy Boy Sessions: 3 String Cigar Box Guitar Instrumentals.” And so on a recent frosty Wednesday morning I did just that and was it ever worth it. The first song was “Up & Happy” and it was a chill meditation of a song. I had no idea that a guitar made out of a cigar box and with only three strings could make such a distinct, arresting sound. But this is not Giusto’s first rodeo. His music has been on my radar since his days playing under the name Meantone, purveyor of graveyard blues. He’s got mad skills, and this Fat Knuckle Freddy project is yet another shining example. “Down & Disgusted” is a mesmerizing track that I hoped was without end. “Torn Labrum” is 11 tracks long and, as each one passed through my ears, the spell was cast deeper. Fat Knuckle Freddy’s performance at Blue is to celebrate the fact that “Torn Labrum” is ready for download on iTunes, Amazon, Pandora and Spotify. This means you can feast your ears in advance and then come out on Tuesday night to hear the tunes in the flesh, clink congratulatory glasses with Giusto and gaze upon the fat knuckle yourself.

Fat Knuckle Freddy, 7 p.m. Tuesday. Blue, 650 Congress St., Portland, free (pass the hat).