John’s Blues Picks July 2015 – Ronnie Earl “Father’s Day”
Ronnie Earl “Father’s Day” (Stony Plain/Warner) | www.ronnieearl.com
With its long, fluid lines and searing intensity, Ronnie Earl’s guitar mastery has maintained a devoted following over some forty years now. He won a Blues Music Award last year as Guitar Player of the Year, proof that his reputation only continues to grow. His ninth album for Stony Plain will definitely keep the trend going.
The title song and centre of gravity is a magnificent original one about the reconciliation with his father on last year’s Father’s Day, just before both parents, who were holocaust survivors, passed away. Michael Ledbetter sings Earl’s poignant lyric beautifully. Ledbetter is the singer in Chicago’s Nick Moss Band. Although born & raised in New England and still living there, Ronnie Earl continues his devotion to the guitarists of Chicago’s West Side golden age.
Two songs by Otis Rush, two by Magic Sam get the Earl treatment here. “Higher Love” is one of two other Earl originals and it features a horn section, taking us back to his days with Roomful of Blues. Ledbetter is on vocals here too but it’s a duet with Diane Blue, who has received much praise for her singing on previous Earl discs. “I Need You So Bad” is from the B.B. King songbook and was probably recorded before his recent passing, so is a ‘tip of the hat’ instead of a tribute. Ledbetter (who apparently is distantly related to Lead Belly) does a nice job on the vocal. Brook Benton’s “I’ll Take Care of You” is another highlight, with a powerful vocal from Ms. Blue. “Moanin’” is the jazz standard by Bobby Timmons and gets a very bluesy arrangement with strong sax solos from Mario Perrett and Scott Shetler.
Earls’ band of over 25 years, Dave Limina, keyboards; Lorne Entress, drums; and Jim Mouradian, bass do their sterling best, as always, but especially on this song. The disc concludes with another highlight, Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey’s gospel classic “Precious Lord”. Diane Blue has never sounded better. The web site is www.ronnieearl.com and as of July 17 it will have links to audio streaming and to the Stony Plain web site.