Friday, February 10, 2017

Sugar Ray and the BlueTones Seeing Is Believing

Sugar Ray and the BlueTones
Seeing Is Believing
Severn Records

"Seeing Is Believing" is the latest from One of today's top blues groups, Sugar Ray and the BlueTones. Once again the quintet has produced a dozen blues grooves including eleven originals from the band members. Ray Norcia has certainly become a most expressive singer while Monster Mike Welch a superlative guitarist such as when he evokes Otis Rush on the title track behind Norcia's Junior Parker-like soulful crooning. Add Anthony Geraci's two-fisted piano, Michael Mudcat Ward's rock solid bass and Neil Gouvin's crisp drumming, and one has one superb band.

One should not be surprised by the variety mix of sounds here including Geraci's rock steady "Noontime Bell," where Norcia sings about leaving his ex-before that noontime bell before taking a charged harmonica solo while Geraci takes a piano break that would have made Otis Spann smile. On "Keep On Sailing," Norcia opens in the manner of one of Rice 'Sonny Boy Williamson' Miller's unaccompanied solo performances with the band joining halfway in, and then followed by a hot shuffle, "Blind Date" that provides another showcase for Norcia's harp as well as Welch coming across like a cross of country swing version of Willie Johnson. Welch is showcased on an instrumental rendition of B.B. King's "You Know That I Love You," suggesting, but not imitating, King's guitar sound. What a nice tribute to the late legend.

The rest of the album is similarly first-rate with strong songs (including the blues ballad "Not Me" and the Muddy Waters' styled "Too Hundred Dollars Long" with terrific slide guitar), fine vocals and a superb band, which should not be surprising since since they have had the same line-up since Welch joined them 16 years ago (and the other four have been together 40 years). Hearing is believing Sugar Ray and the BlueTones with "Seeing Is Believing" being another terrific recording of tough Chicago-styled blues.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the September-Octobetr 2016 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 368). Here is Sugar Ray and the BlueTones in a 2016 performance.

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