Friday, February 29, 2008

Review: "Hope Radio" by Ronnie Earl

I've been listening to it nonstop for almost a week, and this is a great cd. Of course, every cd by Ronnie Earl is a great cd. This cd was recorded over two days in April 2007 in front of a live audience at Wellspring Sound in Acton, Massachusetts with Earl's long-time band the Broadcasters--Dave Limina (piano, Hammond B3), Jim Mouradian (bass), Lorne Entress (drums), and guest Michael 'Mudcat' Ward (bass, piano). It was filmed as well, so expect a DVD, probably this summer. This all instrumental set kicks off with "Eddie's Gospel Groove" featuring a Santana-like tone and a marvelous clear jazzy groove. I expect this one to be a highlight in concert. Then Earl leads the group into "Bobby's Bop" and "Blues For the Homeless," two more up-tempo burners where Earl clearly shows that a great artist doesn't need words to convey emotion. "I Am With You" gets awfully quiet at times, but it leads into the centerpiece of the cd: "Katrina Blues." This is the only song on the disc with the word blues in the title, and it's the shortest cut on the disc, but here Earl switches to acoustic guitar and shows why he is such a treasure: his touch, his tone, his TASTE is so perfect. Earl then does a tribute to Howlin' Wolf and Hubert Sumlin on "Wolf Dance," and a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan on "Kay My Dear" followed by the glorious "Blues For the West Side" which to my ears sounds like a tribute to Magic Sam. Earl dedicates "Beautiful Child" to "the sick and suffering alcoholics in the world." Then the beautiful "Blues for Otis Rush" is a ten minute valentine from one guitar genius to another, and there is not one wasted note. By the time the last notes of "New Gospel Tune" fade out you know that Ronnie Earl is without a doubt one of the very top guitarists out there in blues or jazz.

This may be the blues record of the year. Buy it--you will not be disappointed.

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