Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Tommy Ridgely Since The Blues Began

Tommy Ridgely 
Since The Blues Began 
Black Top

While attending the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival for the first time at the end of April, I caught plenty of great blues, zydeco and R&B. While he did not play the festival during the first weekend, Tommy Ridgely was at Howlin’ Wolf, a New Orleans Club, as part of a New Orleans Rhythm & Blues revue that also included Oliver Morgan, pianist Eddie Bo and Earl King. 

Ridgely, who first recorded with Dave Bartholomew’s band in 1949, made such memorable sides as Shrewsbury Blues, Looped, Jam Up and Gonna Meet My Girl. At the Howlin’ Wolf he stuck to the songs from his new album, Since the Blues Began and his vocals were exquisite. I also saw him the next afternoon at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville where he played piano, and sang a wide range of blues, backed by acoustic guitar and harp. 

Since the Blues Began is a superb album, and shows Ridgely to be as vital today as his first recordings with Dave Bartholomew’s band. He is heard with a crack band that includes Sammy Berfect and Edward Frank on keyboards, the incredible Snooks Eaglin on guitar, George Porter on bass and Kaz Kazanoff and Tony Dagradi on saxophones. Ridgely may be close to 70, but he still sings with great vigor and flexibility in his delivery. He doesn’t sound his age. 

He is obviously happy with the album and there is no filler among the songs. There are some new recordings of songs he waxed years ago, including I Heard That Story Before, and Let’s Try to Talk It Over. The latter number may suggest why he was once known as the “New King of the Stroll”. He contributed a number of new songs, like the opening Pretty Lady ( many guys will be able to identify with the sentiment of its lyrics), Running After You, and The World Is Our Stage. Jody Siegel contributed the title song. 

Ridgely’s lyrics explore the varying aspects of male-female relationships from a sophisticated, adult perspective. And, for someone whose early recordings are classic jump blues in a Roy Brown vein, Tommy Ridgely seems completely at home with the nineties Crescent City R&B groove. To reiterate, Tommy Ridgely’s Since the Blues Began is a terrific disc. 

I likely received my review copy from Black Top Records. This review appeared originally in the July-August 1995 Jazz and Blues Report (Issue 203). This is available used or as a download.  Here is the original recording of I Heard That Story Before, that he remade for this album.

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