Thursday, August 09, 2012

Earl Thomas and His Electrifying Blues Ambassadors

The biggest highlight of the 2012 Pennsylvania Blues Festival for this writer was a riveting set by the San Francisco Bay Area’s Earl Thomas with his band The Blues Ambassadors. Thomas brings to mostly original blues and soul numbers a raspy, vibrato-laden vocal style that may evoke some classic deep soul acts of thirty years ago. His band is a tough outfit that complements his searing vocals. In actual performance he has the stage presence of a Wilson Pickett crossed with Jackie Wilson that makes for some musical fireworks.

His performance impressed me enough to purchase his CD, Introducing the Blues Ambassadors (Earl Thomas Music). On the CD the Blues Ambassadors include Kedar Roy on bass; Robert Sidwell and Bob Welsh on guitars (Welsh doubles on electric piano); Takeshi Komori on organ and Paul Revelli on drums. The Band at the Festival was different but in both cases provided a firm backing for Thomas’ vocals.

Earl Thomas at the
2012 Pennsylvania Blues Festival
There is a nice of originals and covers from the strutting opening I’ll Be Alright with slide guitar helping drive the fast walking tempo as Thomas sings about having the blues as he walks down the road but will be all right. There is a pretty straight cover of Magic Sam’s All Your Love with a strong vocal that exhibits Thomas vibrato and some broiling guitar followed by a fresh take on the Big Maybelle classic One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show, performed if he was covering a Billy Boy Arnold Vee-Jay recording. His raspy voice, moving from talking to shouting, helps deliver this terrific lyric.

The mood changes on the soulful ballad performance, Never Can Tell, followed by the rocking groove of Don’t Do Me This Way, as he sings of the pain in his heart as he feels like rain on a sunny day, and baby, Another soulful ballad Standing in the Rain, is followed by a bluesy cover of the late Paul Pena’s Jet Airliner, which is true to Pena’s lyrics as opposed to those sung by Steve Miller’s in his better known version. She Fooled Me is a cover of Billy Boy Arnold’s I Was Fooled, and the band captures the feel of the classic Chicago blues sound behind Thomas’ singing. All Talk No Action, is an instrumental that conjures up classic Booker T. & the M.G.s while the topical How Come?, is a nice, understated performance.

I look forward to seeing and hearing more from Earl Thomas in the future. Introducing the Blues Ambassadors is an impressive recording although it did not exhibit all the electricity Thomas and his Band generate in performance. This is an artist and band we will be hearing more from in the future.

And here is a clip of Earl Thomas in performance.

1 comment:

Deb in SF said...

Ron, Earl Thomas has a bunch of earlier CDs you can find in various places online. One of my favorites is Soul'd from 2001/2002.
From his latest CD, Kedar Roy (bass) and Robert Sidwell (guitar) were at the PA fest.
I'm really thrilled that the East Coast has had a chance to see how talented Earl and his band are. We're very lucky to have them in the SF Bay Area!