Maxwell Street is not just a nod to the famous market in Chicago but also Ronnie Earl’s way of paying tribute to an old friend who recently passed away, the legendary pianist and former Broadcaster David Maxwell. Dave Limina, who now has the piano chair, composed “Elegy For A Bluesman” and Earl wrote “Blues For David Maxwell” – a more fitting tribute would be hard to imagine. Ronnie Earl excels at these slow blues and “In Memory of T-Bone” is mesmerizing. The tempo picks up a bit for Diane Blue’s vocal, “Kismet”. Ms. Blue doesn’t seem to be a guest vocalist any longer, the band photo shows she’s a full member and a valuable addition it is. Earl was invited to participate in the tribute to Otis Rush at this year’s Chicago Blues Festival in recognition of the longstanding role Otis Rush has played in Earl’s work.

There has been a Rush song or a tribute on almost every disc. This time a stunning, eleven-minute version of “Double Trouble” is the centrepiece of Maxwell Street. Ms. Blue sings her heart out. As lovely as Earl’s slow songs are, he knows he has to have some variety and the Goffin-King hit “(I’ve Got To Use My) Imagination” is an excellent choice, Ms. Blue really tears into it. After the “Blues For David Maxwell”, with its breathtaking climax, Ms. Blue gets her fourth vocal, a rather pleasant version of Eddie Arnold’s “You Don’t Know Me”. The relatively short and ‘up’ Earl instrumental “BroJoe” is next followed by the concluding “As The Years Go Passing By” with Ms. Blue getting a verse or two in between those extended solos. I haven’t yet mentioned the other two parts of this organic whole, Jim Mouradian on bass and Lorne Entress on drums.

This quartet has been together a long time by industry standards and the communication is automatic. His web site, www.ronnieearl. com, just has shows in and around his home in New England for now.

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