The Luckiest Man
Stony Plain Records
Ronnie Earl plays guitar with a passion and creativity that is rarely equaled. For a number of years he performed without a vocalist and his compositions became closer to jazz. Earl won his third Blues Music Award as Best Instrumentalist – Guitar in 2014.When Earl chose to work with a vocalist again he chose Diane Blue.
Blue guests on Earl’s 2013 album “Just For Today”. She sang one song, the Bill Foster and Ellington Jordan composition, “I’d Rather Go Blind”. The original version was recorded by Etta James in 1967.
Blue appeared on Earl’s 2014 recording “Good News Blues N’ Soul” and sang on four tracks including Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come”. She guested again on Earl’s 2015 album “Father’s Day”. Blue became the first female member of Earl’s touring band shortly thereafter. On 2016’s “Maxwell Street”, last year’s album, Blue was listed as a Broadcaster alongside Earl, Dave Limina, Lorne Entress and Jim Mouradian; that album was dedicated to the late pianist David Maxwell.
“The Luckiest Man”, Earl’s twenty-fifth album, is dedicated to another brother, the late Mouradian. Earl calls this “an album of traditional, healing and soulful blues rooted in gratitude” as he “once again finds himself mourning a dear friend”.
The new band lineup now includes Earl, guitar; Limina, piano and Hammond organ; Blue, vocals; and newest members Paul Kochanski, bass; and Forrest Padgett, drums.
On the opening track, Don Robey’s “Ain’t That Loving You”, first recorded by Bobby “Blue” Bland in 1962, Earl’s guitar and Blue’s vocal are fabulous together as Blue’s clarity and annunciation are perfect. Limina’s B-3 and the horn section of Roomful of Blues’ Mark Earley, baritone sax; and Mario Perrett, tenor sax, complete the production.
Earl has composed four new instrumentals “Southside Stomp”; “Sweet Miss Vee”; “Blues For Magic Sam”; and the evocative “Jim’s Song” written as a tribute to Mouradian. “Howlin’ Blues” is a traditional tune adapted and re-arranged by Earl and the results are stunning.
Blue sings again on the dirge like “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” written by Reverend Gary Davis and first recorded by him in 1960; on Marshall Paul’s “So Many Roads” recorded by Otis Rush in 1960; on “Heartbreak (It’s Hurtin Me)” first recorded by Little Willie John also in 1960; and on Fenton Robinson’s “You Don’t Know What Love Is” from 1974. “Never Gonna Break My Faith” is a gospel song that was included in Emilio Estevez’s 2006 documentary film “Bobby” about Senator Robert Kennedy and the last day of his life before being assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan.
Earl began playing with The Bluetones and “Long Lost Conversation”, written by Sugar Ray Norcia, features him alongside them. Featured are Norcia, chromatic harp and vocal; guitarist Peter Ward; “Mudcat” Ward, bass; Mike Welch, guitar; Anthony Geraci, piano; and Neil Gouvin, drums.
Guitarist Earl, vocalist Blue, and the rest of the Broadcasters are at their very best on this fine recording.
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