As the MapleBlues team adjusts to the loss of our esteemed reviewer, JV, it is important that blues artists and their labels make sure that TBS is getting your new release in good time so that it can be assigned to one of the pool of knowledgeable blues influencers who we will call upon for reviews. Thanks this month to Eric Thom, Cindy McLeod, Sandra B. Tooze and TBS Prez Derek Andrews.

Guitar giant Ronnie Earl adds to his impressive catalogue of recordings with his latest release, Rise Up, on Stony Plain Records. This 15 song album showcases the artist’s masterful guitar work with a socially conscious recording.
As ever, Earl is understated in both his performances and his renderings of songs composed by an array of artists including Magic Sam, Bob Dylan, Lillian Green and Fenton Robinson, along with his own material filling out the album.
Partially recorded live from Daryl’s House Club and partially recorded in his home as part of The Living Room Sessions, this album is contextual in nature, with songs dedicated to George Floyd, Lucky Peterson, Jimmy Smith, and addicts and alcoholics everywhere (Earl speaks freely of his over 30 years of sobriety).
Starting off with the traditional song “I Shall Not Be Moved,” arranged by Ronnie Earl for a spare and clean take, the album kicks off a journey of memories, soft pedaled social statements and Earl’s passionate performances. “Blues For George Floyd,” gives a voice to the injustice and pain of Floyd’s senseless murder. In a song co-written with vocalist Diane Blue, “Black Lives Matter,” Earl speaks of those remembered while Blue delivers a heart wrenching vocal. “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” is a funky version brought to life by Diane Blue’s vocal prowess, while Big Town Playboy features a B3 solo through this beefy shuffle. Ertegun’s “Mess Around,” brings a bouncy, effervescent approach with its piano based boogie, “All Your Love,” showcasing a powerful vocal performance by Blue, while “Blues for J,” is a lively jazzy take on this Jimmy Smith composition that swings hard and features Dave Limina’s B3 work. Through it all, Earl’s guitar is the lifeblood, soaring through the veins of the music to beat the heart of this vital recording.
Overall this is another fine release by one of the most versatile guitarists on the Blues scene today. One can count on Ronnie Earl to deliver passionate, honest music that pushes the boundaries of what can often be claimed as blues. (Cindy McLeod).