Saturday, November 21, 2015

Ronnie Earl - Father's Day

Ronnie Earl has becoming somewhat prolific the past few years on the recording front and his latest album with his band, The Broadcasters, "Father's Day" is on Stony Plain. He is backed by Lorne Entess on drums, Dave Limina on keys and Jim Mouradian on bass with vocalists Diana Blue and Michael Ledbetter enlivening a number of tracks. Blue has been on recent recordings by Earl, while Ledbetter (a distant relative of Leadbelly) is best known for his role with Nick Moss' excellent band. This group is augmented by saxophones and guitar.

The title refers in part to Ronnie's reconciliation with his own father, but also indirectly relates to his rendition of a number of songs associated with a couple of his deep musical influences, Otis Rush and Magic Sam. Ledbetter handles many of the vocals here including a couple of covers of Rush numbers, "It Takes Time" and "Right Place Wrong Time," both of which are in the vein of Rush's recordings. Earl's original, "Higher Love" is a strong shuffle with horns adding to its flavor, a first-rate vocal duet between Ledbetter and Diane Blue, while Earl comes across as a cross between Rush and Kenny Burrell here.

Blue provides a nice vocal on Magic Sam's "What Have I Done Wrong" and if Earl's chording evokes Sam's original, his playing is more like Rush interpreting Sam. There is spectacular string-bending on this. Similar comments could directed on the rendition of "Every Night About This Time," a Magic Sam adaptation of Fats Domino's song with Ledbetter forcefully delivering the lyrics. Earl and Ledbetter co-authored the title track with its lyrics of making peace and forgiveness. Ledbetter's vocal and Earl's biting guitar make for a most moving performance. A brooding version of Brook Benton's "I'll Take Care of You" features more stunning guitar as well as Diane Blue's soulful vocal.

Bobby Timmons' "Moanin'" is a tip to Earl's jazz interests, followed by Ledbetter's vocal on "All Your Love," before closing as Diane Blue takes to church on Georgia Tom Dorsey's classic "Precious Lord." Earl is stunning, oft spectacular and the Broadcasters are typically in excellent form as they provide the apt, never rushed or frantic, backing. Limina's keyboards are especially worth saluting with a few choice organ solos, while guitarist Nicholas Tabarias solos on two of the 13 songs. In contrast to most his recent recordings which have been instrumentally focused, "Father's Day," showcases Earl accompanying two excellent vocalists for a wonderful recording for fans of various blues flavors.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared in slightly different form in the September-October 2015 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 362). Here Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters perform "Blues For Otis Rush."

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