Ronnie Earl's latest CD, "Ronnie Earl & Friends" is packed full of blues, folks and fun! Earl sets the house afire with hot guitar licks, then pulls back with slow, sultry down-home blues, and throws in the occasional bad-boy boogie with his friends. Ah, jammin' with friends like James Cotton, Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson, Kim Wilson, Irma Thomas, David Maxwell, Jimmy Mouradian and Levon Helm makes for some great soulful, sounds!
Earl's CD opens with Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson calling out Magic Sam Maghett's, "All Your Love." Johnson and Earl trade screaming guitar licks and David Maxwell shows off some delightful keyboard antics! Kim Wilson of Fabulous Thunderbird fame keeps the room rockin' with Arthur Crudup's, "Rock Me Baby." Wilson's matter-of-fact vocals contrast with his wailing harmonica blasts and the playful guitar licks.
The album then slows down with the powerful vocal stylings of Irma Thomas. Thomas makes the most of Brook Benton's, "I'll Take Care of You" which flows into Doc Pomus', "Lonely Avenue." Thomas' vocals spill out with a soulful--almost haunting feel. Even if she sometimes doesn't quite reach the pitch, she takes the words and pours them out with great emotion. Earl's soft, yet intricate guitar licks mimic Thomas' mesmerizing vocals. Bass player Michael "Mudcat" Ward is also featured on this tune, serving up a powerful bottom line.
James Cotton's, "One More Mile" features his great harmonica playing as well as some solid playing by Maxwell, Helm, Mouradian and Earl. Wilson's vocals are stirring on this tune, and the musicians play together like they've been playing together for years. These musicians shine while playing instrumental tunes, conveying great excitement and fun!
Ronnie Earl and Ted Drozdowski's, "New Vietnam Blues" is a powerful tribute to veterans sung by Irma Thomas. Earl touches each guitar string gently, playing quickly and softly, winding 'round and 'round toward the intended notes, drawing listeners into his web. Thomas' vocals are strong, leaving no question that her words are of appreciation.
David Maxwell pulls out the stops while tickling the ivories on Otis Spann's, "Marie!" This is a groovin' little tune, and Maxwell plays wonderfully! Ronnie Earl then tops off this great blues album with Samuel Maghett's, "Looking Good" just to remind us that he's great with his friends, but he's also great playing solo! "Ronnie Earl & Friends" is an album packed with great blues, hot guitar licks, and great friends.
Web site: www.RonnieEarl.com
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This review is copyright © 2001 by Lisa Gault, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.