Severn has just released a new CD by Sugar Ray and the Blue Tones, My Life, My Friends, My Music. It has Sugar Ray Norcia backed by his long-time associates, Michael ‘Mudcat’ Ward, Neil Gouvin and Anthony Geraci with guests Duke Robillard, Monster Mike Welch, Greg Piccolo, Doug James, Carl Querfurth, and Bob Enos. It gives him a chance to be heard in both a jump blues vein (after all he was Roomful of Blues’ vocalist for several years), a fifties Chicago blues vein and in some more intimate settings as well.
Norcia has established himself as a solid, strong vocalist and this recording is no exception although his covers of Oh, Babe, and I Like My Baby’s Pudding pale compared to Wyonnie Harris’ definitive renditions. An amusing original, Little Green Talking Frog, is in a similar musical vein and Norcia is not afraid to handle a New Orleans ballad, I Want To be With Her, as well as the Andy Kirk (Pha Terrell on vocal) classic, Until the Real Thing Comes Along, although overshadowed by fifties renditions by Big Joe Turner and Jimmy Witherspoon (Spoon’s rendition recently made available on a superb Mosaic Selects reissue).
A certain imagination in backing is present on Money Taking Mama, with spare accompaniment led by Geraci’s strong piano which evokes Tampa Red and Big Maceo. It is followed by a nice reading of Rice Miller’s stop-time I Don’t Know. An original gospel tune, No Sorrow No More, has a Piedmont, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee flavor, while Do You Remember has him nicely handling a Big Maceo song, styling his vocal after the piano blues giant with Monster Mike Welch adding some nice acoustic guitar fills.
Its another engaging release from Sugar Ray and his friends, imaginatively programmed and with his originals mixed in with songs that have not been recorded to death. Not an essential release, but one that certainly will entertain many.
This review originally appeared in the July-August 2007 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 295). I likely received my review copy from a publicist. He is a performance by Sugar Ray & the Blue Tones from around the time this album was released.