Ronnie Earl’s Broadcasters have had one of the most consistent lineups over the years. As each new album arrived, Dave Limina was on B3, Lorne Entress, drums and Jim Mouradian was on bass. But after a performance this past January, Mouradian suddenly passed away. A new album would be an obvious way to deal with the loss. Earl calls it “A traditional blues album of remembrance, love, and unwavering resolve to live with faith and gratitude. The title, The Luckiest Man, is a phrase and response spoken by Jim who always lived with gratitude in his heart and who never wasted a moment of his life: ‘I’m the luckiest man you know — and I don’t even know who you know.’” The songs dedicated to Mouradian include the tender solo instrumental, “Jim’s Song” and “Death Don’t Have No Mercy”, the latter getting a ‘hauntingly beautiful’ arrangement, with just two guitars and a superb vocal by the relatively new Broadcaster, Diane Blue. In addition to Ms. Blue, the new edition of the Broadcasters retains Limina on keys, with Forrest Padgett on drums and Paul Kochanski on bass. They ably support Earl on a blues-heavy set list. A slowed down and wonderfully re-arranged version of Don Robey’s “Ain’t That Loving You” opens, and there are several of Earl’s patented blues instrumentals: “Southside Stomp”, “Howlin’ Blues” & “Sweet Miss Vee”. A highlight for sure is a reunion of some of the original Broadcasters and current members of Sugar Ray and the Bluetones: Sugar Ray Norcia, vocals, harp; Anthony Geraci, piano; Mike Welch, guitar; Neil Gouvin, drums; Michael “Mudcat” Ward – double bass & Fender bass. Their “Long Lost Conversation” is a magnificent, eleven-minute slow blues. A three-song tribute to the West Side of Chicgo concludes, with “Blues For Magic Sam”, “So Many Roads” & “You Don’t Know What Love Is”. If there is one artist Earl adores most it is Otis Rush, and the eleven-minute “Roads”, with its powerful vocal fom Ms. Blue and ever-impressive guitar from Earl will surely go to the top of the list of Earl’s Otis covers. There are horns on the opening track, and they return for the uptempo version of “You Don’t Know What Love Is”, a fitting way to end. Ronnie Earl’s last album dealt with the loss of David Maxwell, and while these tributes do seem to bring out the best in him, I hope he doesn’t have to do that for the next one.

John's Blues Pick November 2017 - Jim Byrnes