Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Midnight Memphis Sun reviewed by Steve Jones

Midnight Memphis Sun
JW Jones
Ruf Records
12 tracks

I had heard a few cuts from this CD on XM radio and was happy to see this arrive in the mail to review.  Jones is a bright, young bluesman from Canada who records on the German Ruf Record label.  Recorded at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis and JDub’s House in Ottawa, the CD is a bouncy and fun ride that features Charlie Musselwhite and Hubert Sumlin along with Jones’ stellar guitar and vocals.

The tune that first caught my attention on the radio was “Kissin’ in Memphis”, a bright and sprightly original number with a nice tune, some cool guitar solos and Mr. Musselwhite filling in perfectly on harp.  Charlie also appears on the Sonny Terrie and Brownie McGhee tune “Burnt Child” and Jimmy Reed’s “I Don’t Go For That”.  The former sounds like it came right out the Delta with wicked harp licks and a down home vocal sound where the latter offers up some greased up Chicago style hot licks and blowing.

The eminent Hubert Sumlin also appears on a trio of original Jones songs.  “Born Operator” showcases some beautifully traded off sets of licks between Sumlin and Jones.  They go sans singing on the instrumental cut “Howlin’ With Hubert”, again trading off mean licks between the old and new guard.  The CD closes with “Games”, where the majority of the midsection of the track gives us the two doing what they do best on the guitar.

The CD offers up mostly new songs, but the other two covers are quite fun.  Lowell Fulson’s “Love Grows Cold” and fellow Canadian Bryan Adams’ “Cuts Like a Knife” get treated to well done covers by Jones.  Fulson’s cover track is really jumping and the Bryan Adams cover jacks up the tempo and sound in an original manner.  The other original tracks vary up and down in tempo and give us a good look at this young artist and what he can do.  The vocals are clean and cool, the guitar is never overstated or overblown.  JW is a talented young man who has produced a fine CD here.  This is really one to go out and buy and add to your collection soon!

Reviewed by Steve Jones

Georgia Warhorse reviewed by Mark Thompson

Georgia Warhorse
JJ Grey & Mofro
Alligator Records
11 tracks/53:02

With their first release nine years ago, Mofro introduced their unique sound to the world. It was a heady blend of funkiness nurtured in the Florida swamps combined with blues and southern rock influences. The band’s earthy approach attracted attention worldwide, seemingly keeping the band on a perpetual tour. When they changed labels in 2006 from Fog City Records to Alligator, JJ Grey’s name was highlighted to reflect his stature as the band’s driving force and principal songwriter.

His long-time collaborator, guitarist Daryl Hance, continued to be an integral part of Mofro on the first two Alligator releases but his name is missing from the credits for the latest recording, leaving Grey as the lone original member. Dan Prothero, head of Fog City Records, continues his streak as the band’s only producer. In the liner notes, Grey sings the praises of engineer Jim Devito and his Restrophonics Studio, the only facility that Grey has recorded in. And the results speak for themselves as both men are definitely attuned to sound that Grey is trying to capture.

Listen to the rhythmic pulse and taut guitar riff on “The Hottest Spot in Hell”. Chris von Sneidern on percussion sets a relentless pace behind Grey, who dials back the vocal intensity due to surging force generated by the band. The closing track follows, with Grey unleashing his magnificent voice on “Lullaby” with guest Derek Trucks adding a tortured slide guitar part to the proceedings. The title track is another highlight, with a sound like the Lowell George-era Little Feat. It refers to the nickname for a tough grasshopper that has qualities Grey sees in himself. “All” features an excited vocal by Grey and magnificent drumming from Anthony Cole.

Grey’s acoustic guitar is featured on the arrangement for “Hide & Seek” along with his patented soulful singing. Cushioned by a horn section on “The Sweetest Thing”, famed reggae artist Toots Hibbert joins Grey, setting up a vocal exchange that ends in a draw as each singer turns in a colorful performance. “King Hummingbird” tackles the quest of a man seeking redemption. The track steadily grows in power until Grey cries out in agony, seeking forgiveness. “Slow, Hot & Sweaty” is an apt title for a piece that could easily fill any dance floor in the country with its grinding rhythm. The track also brings to light maybe the only weakness of the project. Grey occasionally falls victim to using a certain snippet of lyrics repeatedly in a song, which detracts from the solid musical foundation on every cut.

Grey handles all of the vocal and remaining guitar parts in addition to playing piano, synthesizer, clavinet, talkbox and harmonica. Additional band members include Andrew Rube on bass and lap steel guitar, Anthony Farrell on keyboards, Art Edmaistron on tenor saxophone, Dennis Marion on trumpet and Adam Scone, who brightens several tracks with his Hammond B3 organ. Together they energize Grey’s deeply personal compositions that take an unwavering glimpse of the world with all of its joy and pain, emotions that are expressed in Grey’s fervent singing. If you haven’t checked out any of the previous releases, make sure you give Georgia Warhorse a thorough listen so that you will no longer be deprived of the many savory moments served up by JJ Grey & Mofro.

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

A Dozen Times reviewed by Steve Jones

A Dozen Times
Travis “Moonchild” Haddix
Benevolent Blues
12 tracks

About 30 miles north of San Diego and perhaps an hour south of Long Beach, CA, is the home of CDS Records and the Benevolent Blues label.  Home blues artists like “Moonchild” Haddix, Nellie “Tiger” Travis and Chick Willis (and also home to soul men like Floyd Taylor and Jim Bennett), they offer up some powerful music.

Haddix is a wicked guitar player and great blues singer who is also a member of the Cleveland Blues Hall of Fame.  Born in Walnut, Mississippi on November 26, 1938 and having spent his formative years in Milwaukee, he moved to Cleveland in 1959 after a stint in the Army.  He has a plentiful discography going back the 1960’s and is a veteran soul blues man.  He is backed up here by Ed Lemmers on bass, Brian Hager on rhythm guitar, Gil Zachery on piano, Jeremy Sullivan on drums, Jeff Hager on trumpet, David Ruffin on tenor sax, Norm Tischler on alto sax, and TJ Fortunato on baritone sax.  The horn section has a beautiful and greasy west coast blues sound to it, offering up some very good solos.  Records live in Cleveland (except for the final two tracks), Haddix and the band put on a driving and exciting show.  All songs are originals and were penned by Haddix.

He begins he set with the biographical “They Call Me Moonchild”,  a grooving and upbeat soul blues tune.  He then breaks into some deep and slow blues on “First Thing Tuesday Morning”.  It opens with a down home electric guitar solo that shows us the other side of Haddix’s style and he follows that track with five more hot original blues tunes including one of his “anthems” “If I’m One, You’re One Too”.  In “Winners Never Quit” he goes back to his soul side with a nice slow number.  The next track is all blues called “Down Home Blues”.  He finishes out the live part of the CD and the two studio numbers with a nice blend of blues and funk that features the horn section in full force.

Haddix can deliver some dirty, down home vocals that evoke his time growing up 30 miles south of Memphis.  But his vocals can also be soulful, introspective and equally convincing.  His guitar work is greasy and he wastes no notes; his phrasing and picking on the guitar is not overstated and offers the listener some mean licks to savor.  The CD is a mostly live and completely great offering that lovers of traditional and west Coast blues will savor.  Mixing “Moonchild” with a big and bad horn section gives the listener a huge pot of music to gobble up and enjoy.  I recommend this one highly!

Reviewed by Steve Jones

The Well reviewed by Mark Thompson

The Well
Charlie Musselwhite
Alligator Records
13 tracks/47:43

In a career that has spanned five decades, Charlie Musselwhite has had a number of recordings that capture the full extent of his talents. He is an acknowledged master of the blues harmonica and later in his career; he started to feature himself on guitar and vocals. His latest recording is a stunning collection that strips away all of the fat and allows listeners to really hone in on Musselwhite’s superb rendering of the blues tradition.

The all-original program serves as a testament to Musselwhite’s skill as a songwriter. Whether it’s the easy-going swing of “Dig the Pain” or the driving pulse of “Just You, Just Blues”, the songs find Charlie ruminating on various parts of his life, occasionally serving up advice or warnings from his hard-earned experiences. He gets expert backing from Dave Gonzales on guitar, John Bazz on bass and Stephen Hodges on drums. The trio format leaves plenty of room for the music to breathe and never overshadows Musselwhite’s half-spoken vocal style.

“Cook County Blues” is a shuffle with Gonzales on backing vocal that relates the unfortunate results of one of Musselwhite’s actual arrests with the leader laying down a brief but mesmerizing harp solo. On “Cadillac Women”, he relates his preference for money-grabbing women despite the cautionary warnings from his parents. The disc opens with another stark autobiographical number, “Rambler’s Blues” with Gonzales (Paladins, Hacienda Brothers) contributing a taut guitar part over a stomping beat from Hodges. The jaunty rhythm of the title cut belies Musselwhite’s tale of how he broke free of alcohol in response to the events that lead to the rescue of Jessica McClure from a Texas well. Mavis Staples lends a hand on “Sad and Beautiful World”, written in response to the murder of Musselwhite’s mother in 2005.

Switching to guitar, Musselwhite uses the slower pace of “Good Times” to reflect on the ups and downs of life. The eerie “Hoodoo Queen” combines references to Marie Laveau with swirling guitar licks and mournful harp tones. Musselwhite’s harp playing is spotlighted on two instrumentals. The brief “Sonny Payne Special” is a tribute to the famous DJ of the King Biscuit radio program, with the leader and Gonzales firing off impressive solos.

“Clarksdale Getaway” is all Musselwhite, a four-minute reminder that he has few peers on the harmonica, playing with power and the full-bodied tone he is known for. Musselwhite may not possess the strongest singing voice but he delivers a stirring performance on “Where Hwy 61 Runs”, his tribute to the home of the blues - the Mississippi delta.

You can be sure that this recording will garner its share of nominations this year for the various blues music awards. It is simply the best pure blues recording I have heard in quite awhile. No frills, no false sentiments – just honest songwriting combined with down-home rhythms and sterling musicianship. Every self-respecting blues fan should quickly find a place for The Well in their musical collection. It gets the highest recommendation – and will no doubt stand as a masterpiece in Musselwhite’s storied career!!!

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

Live In Boston 1966 reviewed by Mark Thompson

Live In Boston 1966
Junior Wells & the Aces
Delmark Records
19 tracks/65:42

Delmark Records certainly has a knack for discovering unreleased live recordings of some of the best musicians on their label. First were several live sets from guitarist Magic Sam that really helped to fill in gaps in his legacy. Then, five years ago, they dazzled us with a dynamite recording of Otis Rush live on-stage at the Wise Fools Pub in Chicago. But their latest release may be the best of all, in terms of historical value and quality of performance.

The Aces - Louie Myers on guitar, brother Dave Myers on bass and Fred Below on drums - were considered the premier blues band in Chicago during the 1950-decade. Their elite status came from their lengthy stint backing Little Walter as he rose to fame as the baddest harp player in the city. But prior to that, the Aces had backed Junior Wells at the start of his career - and together they brought a decidedly urban feel to the scene, injecting a vibrant, swinging beat that elevated their version of the blues beyond the basic rhythmic patterns of the Delta style.

In 1965, Wells had made an impact with the release of his now-classic recording Hoodoo Man Blues, also on Delmark with a backing band that included his long-time musical partner, Buddy Guy, on guitar. But when Wells hit the road the following year, he took the Aces with him. And we are fortunate that someone was able to capture this reunion on tape at an undisclosed Boston club. Opening with “Feelin’ Good”, listeners get over an hour of
Wells in his prime, displaying his potent talents as a singer and harp player. This recording also has numerous segments of between-song chatter that illustrates Wells ability to entertain an audience.

On ‘Worried Life Blues”, Wells delivers a mournful vocal as Louis Myers frames the singer with sympathetic guitar licks. The band turns in a similar treatment on Jimmy Roger’s “That’s All Right” with a tasteful solo from Myers. After a humorous intro from Wells, the group romps through a brief take of “Look On Yonder’s Wall” with Wells taking a fiery solo on his harp.

Three cuts demonstrate Junior’s ability to fashion new material on a moments notice.  “Junior’s Whoop” borrows heavily from “Mellow Down Easy” with Wells and Myers both getting plenty of room for solos. The performances of “If You Gonna Leave Me” and “I Don’t Know” are compelling with Wells singing without missing a beat even though both songs were totally improvised.  The instrumental “Hideaway” is a vehicle for extended solos from Myers and Wells, with Below getting a brief opportunity to display his skill as a drummer.  The opening sequence to “Got My Mojo Workin’” finds Louis Myers wrenching a magnificent solo from his instrument and Wells sing with a conviction that was easy to come by at a time when this song had not yet reached the status of “Freebird” for blues music.

As a historical document, there is no question that this recording is important. There are few recordings available that give us such a realistic look at a legendary blues musician plying his trade in the club environment. The first-rate performances and the snippets of Wells interacting with the audience elevate this release to essential status.

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

Live On The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise reviewed by Steve Jones

Live On The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise
Joe Louis Walker’s Blues Conspiracy
Stony Plain Records
11 tracks

Joe Louis Walker has had a huge year in winning awards and gaining recognition in the blues world.  This live CD cements that legacy and gains him even more notoriety with this gaggle of all-stars and he blasting through a very nice set of fun songs.  The guest musicians include on guitar Johnny Winter, Duke Robillard, Tommy Castro, Tab Benoit, Todd Sharpville, Kirk Fletcher, Nick Moss, Paris Slim and Paul Nelson.  Kenny Neal, Jason Ricci and Watermelon Slim are on harp, Mike Finnegan on organ, Mitch Woods on piano, Deanna Bogart and Keith Crossan are on sax, Tom Poole on Trumpet, and Curtis Salgado and Mike Finnegan on vocals on “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry” (which is soulful and outstanding).

This CD is basically a blues party.  Recorded live on January’s Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, Walker and his band were joined by the above all-stars and turned in an electric performance.  His vocals are gritty and superb.  His guitar work and the sound of guitars of the guests are out of this world as are the harps and other soloists.  Highlights include Johnny Winter’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre guitar attack on “That Ain’t Cold”,  Salgado’s mournful wail, Castro/Bogart and other cruise regulars on “Eyes Like a Cat”, Fletcher and Walker’s guitar duet on “Ten More Ways to Play”, Ricci’s stratospheric harp on  “Born In Chicago” (along with Nick Moss and Paris Slim blasting their frets off on guitar), Watermelon Slim’s harp on “Sugar Mama”,  Duke Robillard’s wonderful signature guitar work on “Tell Me Why”, Kenny Neal’s poignant harp on “A Poor Man’s Plea”, Tab Benoit's masterful guitar on “747” and the entourage work on “It’s a Shame”.

This is one of the better jam sessions recorded of late with a plethora of stars who are all playing their asses off.  If you like Walker’s work, this one is something you’ve got to buy.  If you are a fan of the guest artists, their solos alone will make you want to own this.  I’m sometimes not a fan of the general cavalcade of stars CDs that we often see released but this one is a super good one!

Reviewed by Steve Jones

Giant reviewed by Harmonica Joe

James Cotton
Alligator Records www.jamescottonsuper
12 Tracks/48:37

James Cotton has returned to Alligator Records with his new release “Giant”. Previously  he released two recordings in the 1980’s. These were, “High Compression”, and “Live From Chicago – Mr. Superharp Himself!”  Also he was on the awesome recording of “Harp Attack” with Junior Wells, Carey Bell and Billy Branch. This is one of my favorite blues harmonica recordings.
Over James Cotton’s 65 years of blues harp playing he has released over 30 albums and traveled the World performing the blues. This is way too much info to discuss in a blues CD review. For more about James Cotton, check out www.jamescottonsuperharp.com.
Cotton created his own harp style which includes a sharp attack of a song, high compression playing and great tone. When you hear him play you will recognize his playing just as you do with Junior Wells or Charlie Musselwhite. He just has a really distinct style and sound. His mentors would be proud of him as well. This list includes Sonnyboy Williamson, Junior Wells, Muddy Waters to name a few.

“Giant” features 4 tunes penned by James Cotton plus songs of BB King, Muddy Waters, and Ivory Joe Hunter. Every song on this CD is powerful and able to stand by itself as a true blues hit. This is really good selection for this project.

James Cotton no longer sings on this CD but has the very capable Slam Allen as his vocalist. Slam has a great blues voice with a good knowledge of how blues should be sung. He also does a lot of the fine guitar work on “Giant”. Making up the rest of the band is Tom Holland on guitar, Kenny Neal Jr. on drums and Noel Neal on bass. This is a very impressive blues band to add to James Cotton’s powerful blues style. The band allows Cotton’s playing to be showcased well.

When you have a list of songs such as “Buried Alive In The Blues”, “That’s All Right”, and “How Blue Can You Get”, it is very tough to pick out a song that really stands out. This CD is just packed with great tunes and talent. James Cotton’s harmonica mastery is showcased well!
Cotton’s tune “With The Quickness”, is a really powerful instrumental that shows his enormous harmonica talent . We get a real treat when he ventures to the high end of the harp on this tune. This is some rapid fire blues played well. Slam’s guitar and Cotton’s harp are like at war.
Slam Allen’s version of Ivory Joe Hunter’s, Since I Met You, Baby”, is my favorite tune on “Giant”. Cotton makes the harp line tell us the story as Slam sings it for us. The guitar work also is excellent here.
I can’t leave without mentioning the chromatic harp instrumental, “Blues For Koko”, dedicated to his long time friend Koko Taylor. This is just a great track to listen to over and over. “Mr. Superharp” is really “Mr. Superharp” here. “Giant” is the right name for this CD. James Cotton is a “Giant” among blues harp players. I am sure that he can still suck or blow the reeds out of harmonicas.

Reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Passport To The Blues reviewed by Rick Davis

Passport To The Blues
Duke Robillard
Stony Plain Records
13 Tracks

Duke Robillard has covered a wide span during his musical career. After playing with several bands, Robillard and pianist Al Copley founded Roomful of Blues in 1967. The band became well known and began to appear with blues legends Big Joe Turner and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson in the recording studio and in live concerts. Robillard continued with Roomful of Blues for 12 years before leaving them to play briefly with rockabilly artist Robert Gordon and created two albums with the Legendary Blues Band, consisting of former members of the Muddy Waters band. From 1990-1992 Duke Robillard and Kid Bangham replaced Jimmy Vaughan with The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Over the years has also performed with Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Jay McShann, John Hammond, the late Jimmy Witherspoon, Dr. John, Maria Muldaur, the Canadian band The Rockin’ Highliners, Snooky Prior, Hal Singer, Pinetop Perkins, Billy Boy Arnold, Herb Ellis, Ruth Brown, the late Johnny Adams, and Ronnie Earl.

Duke Robillard's accomplishments include The Blues Music Awards (formerly W.C. Handy Awards) as the "Best Blues Guitarist" four years out of five (2000,2001,2003,2004), making him the second most honored guitarist for that award.  He was also nominated in that category in 2005, 2007 and 2008. In 2007 Duke received a Grammy nomination for his "Guitar Groove-a-rama" CD. He has the distinct titles of guitarist, bandleader, songwriter, singer, producer, and session musician. He has appeared on 50 albums with Passport To The Blues being his latest.

With all the accolades in place, Robillard seems to be at the peak of his career. Passport To The Blues opens with "Workin' Hard For My Uncle" a blues blast that would raise the roof off any juke joint. Duke's gritty vocals and superb guitar riffs combine with Doug James on sax, Bruce Bears on the keyboard, Brad Hallen on bass, and Mark Teixeira on drums to deliver more extraordinary blues tunes like "Hong Kong Suit." "Blues Train" leans toward the funky side followed by "Girl Let Me Tell Ya" with Doug James absolutely wailing on sax and Robillard delivering that knock out punch on guitar.

"Rhode Island Red Rooster" is a masterfully arranged, slow, shotgun style blues number featuring Doug James this time on harp and Bruce Bears pounding out the keys. Duke advises his latest romance that she is about as welcome as a "Fatal Heart Attack" in the next tune. His blues guitar work and gritty vocals is a perfect fit for the Tom Waits number "Make It Rain." He follows with a jazzy lounge style blues number "When You're Old You're Cold." "Text Me" is the follow up blues flavored tune for the younger generation with a little Jimmy Vaughan style guitar work. It's closing time at the lounge with Duke fighting off a case of the lonely blues with his guitar and a bottle of wine delivering "Duke's Evening Blues." Duke rounds out a superb CD with the Doc Pomus/ Duke Robillard tune "The High Cost Of Lovin'" and in my estimation some of the best blues guitar Robillard has ever delivered with "Grey Sky Blues." As an added bonus, he tops that with a hard drivin' instrumental "Bradford Boogie." Order this one and file it under Duke Robillard's greatest hits. It truly is one of his best!

Reviewed by Rick Davis

Deep Fried Satisfied reviewed by Harmonica Joe

Deep Fried Satisfied
Claude Hay
Self Released
11 tracks /40:27

Claude Hay’s new recording “Deep Fried Satisfied”, is very interesting to say the least! Being unfamiliar with Claude Hay I ventured to his web-site, www.claudehay.com.au, to check him out. Claude Hay is a very interesting musician. He builds his own instruments, including a  twin neck guitar and a sitar. Also he built his own home and converted his van into a tour bus with a kitchen and a recording studio.

As you may already realize Claude Hay may take a different direction in recording music. He is a very fine musician, song writer and performer. I checked out his videos on his web-site and was quite entertained. I am not familiar with the music looping technique but this is how Claude Hay does his performances. I guess that you play a bass line, record to play over and over. Then you add a guitar rhythm track plus a drum line. This all works so that Claude now has a one man band created. This creates a big music sound. All he has to do is add his vocals and guitar solos.  This is all very interesting and entertaining.

The opening tune on “Deep Fried Satisfied” is “Get Me Some”. This song is based on Claude’s fondness for New York style pizza. This tune grabs you right away as it starts out with really fine delta style slide guitar licks. I say that this a great start to a  blues CD review. Well I like pizza as much as the next guy but I am trying to review a blues tune.
“How Can You Live With Yourself” starts out again with Claude’s fine slide guitar licks. Then it slips into a Prince like vocal about stuff made in China. This is a good social comment. Claude does a fine job on his slide guitar solo on this tune.
“Deep Fried Satisfied” is a catchy tune about Claude’s affection for deep fried foods. This tune is kind of a rap type song about apple pie, whipped cream and chain restaurants.

As I said in the beginning, Claude Hay is a very talented musician, song writer and performer. He seems to be having much success touring Australia, Europe, the UK and USA.  I just may not be the right person to do a review of Claude Hay’s “Deep Fried Satisfied”. I may have been looking to hard to find a true blues recording and I can’t say that I have.

Reviewed by Harmonica Joe

So Many Miles reviewed by Steve Jones

So Many Miles
Chris Cain
Blue Rock’It Records
10 tracks

Chris Cain is one helluva guitar player and singer.  I remember the first time I met him: he was wearing overalls and looked like a tradesperson who showed up at the bar he was playing at for a beer after work instead of the talented musician he was and is.  He was so personable and approachable and he had a great sense of humor.  When he set foot on the stage the sound that emanated was amazing.  He plays and sings in a style that reminds me a lot of BB King but with a heavy West Coast influence layered on top.  I’ve loved his recordings over the years but found his live performances to be filled with a larger sense of presence and musicality for some reason.  That was until this recording.

Robben Ford wanted to play with Chris and suggested that he record with him backed up by Ford’s band.  This is an exceptional cast of characters.  The interplay of Cain on lead and Ford on rhythm guitar is beautiful.  Cain’s vocals are soulful and exciting.  The other backing musicians fill in oh-so-well.  Gary Novak and Toss Panos split the work on drums, Trevis Carlson is on bass, Jeff Balbo and John R. Burr share the organ and keys, Carl Bowers is on trombone, David Schrader is on sax and Doug Morton is on trumpet.  The fleshed out larger cast of characters gives the music a full and fresh sound.  Larry Carlton and Russel Ferrante also appear respectively on guitar and keys on “East FoothHill Fingerprint”; the guitar work on this instrumental is spectacular.  The sound has “L.A. blues” written all over it, with jazzy influences and rich filler between the guitars.

The CD opens to the title track, the saga of Cain’s musical career and journey through life.  “So Many Miles” displays his talents well; the listener who knows Cain will appreciate the fresh, clean sound and the newcomer to Cain’s music will immediately fall in love with it.  Cains fingers flow over the frets in a seemingly effortless manner.  “Good Time Barry” and “While the City Sleeps” are prime examples of the Chris Cain guitar sound and the flowing riffs and melodies that he gracefully pulls out of the strings.

I have nothing but praise for this CD and each of its’ tracks.  Cain and Ford have done a marvelous job putting this effort together and really deliver the goods.  Most highly recommended!!!

Reviewed by Steve Jones

Spread The Love reviewed by David Stine

Spread The Love
Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters
Stony Plain
14 tracks/75:14 min.

This is Earl’s second recent all instrumental album. If you are a casual fan it may not spark you to purchase. Even if you just can’t get enough, let me warn you: this is a long CD with mostly slow-to-medium tempoed songs. A straight through listen might send you on household errands or even put you to sleep. It’s not a bad CD, and I can see it in a multidisc player on shuffle with some Johnny A, Wes Montgomery, Duke Robillard, etc. , in some quaint little exposed brick bar or coffee shop. I liked Hope Radio (a previous all instrumental CD) enough to buy it, but this one . . ., well.

 Spread is a mix of jazzy Strat tunes and bluesy Strat tunes (with one acoustic guitar blues thrown in). The disc kicks off with Albert Collins’ “Backstroke.“ Although this is a commendable version, it lacks Collins‘ fire and authority. “Blues for Donna,“ an Earl composition, lingers at  just over 6 minutes, and, again, Earl is a fine guitar player but some of the stretched out slower songs (there are quite a few) made me long for a singer, a long neck, a home invasion, SOMETHING to happen. Earl takes on Kenny Burrell’s “Chitins Con Carne” where he begins to explore the world of Stratocaster jazz--a nice thing. I have always appreciated Earl’s eschewing effects pedals and his ability to explore the tonal possibilities of a Strat straight into and amp. You can’t dig Ronnie Earl without knowing about his previous bouts of depression, alcoholism and drug use and renewed faith in God. “Cristo Redentor,‘ song four, is no surprise then, and it is one my all time favorite songs to be tackled by blues men. However, for all the evocation that Earl is capable of, this one fell short for me--too much Cristo: not enough Redentor. I may be spoiled by Charley Musslewhite’s recent version, but this one just sort of sat a bit and then was over. At song 5, “Happy” (not Keith Richard’s tune) Earl and the Broadcasters transmogrify into a Santana-like outfit without the percussion section. Dave Limina’s B3 had been present throughout the disc, but at this point in the album it really becomes apparent that Earl is a HUGE Santana fan.  “Happy,“ “Patience,“ and “Miracle,“ will take you back to Caravanserai/ Moonflower-era Carlos. Although not as frenetic as senior Santana, Earl gets his licks in while staying true to his current muse. And just when you’re feeling mellow along comes “Spann’s Groove” which opens with boogie woogie piano and the mood is gone. It’s a good thing that Earl can handle so many genres of music, but this change is abrupt! But just as we get ready to boogie, the tempo returns to the slower side of things until the disc ends at song 14. Along the way, we have “Blues for Slim,“ a tribute to Guitar Slim; “Tommy’s Midnight Blues,“ a slow and jazzy blues; “Eleventh Step to Heaven,“ which revisits the sort of plodding pace of “Cristo Redentor”; “Ethan’s Song,“ where blues meets Wes Montgomery; and “Blues for Bill“  the aforementioned acoustic guitar-only song that ends the album.

Before the hate mail gets sent, I have been a Ronnie Earl fan since his days with Roomful of Blues.  I guess I just wish this CD were a bit faster paced and a bit more “on fire.“ Jazz fans may find more here than blues fans; and certainly fans of modern blues may not “get it.”

Reviewed by David Stine