Truly a release of dynamic proportions, Ronnie Earl and Friends is already a favorite play in this domicile. The ex-Roomful Of Blues axe man has, with his solo career, launched an intensely reverent return to true blue material. Any doubters of his talent should be directed to the showcase rendition of "Twenty-Five Days" which sheds full blue light upon his reservoir of guitar skill and understanding. Ronnie Earl has all the musical credentials needed to assemble a cast of friends and pull off one of the best releases of the year, and he has certainly done that with this, effort. Throw in the titanic skills of producer Joe Harley and you have the ingredients blended and cooked into the final product
Ronnie Earl's premium guitar stringin' is backed by the fingers of David Maxwell on the piano, Jimmy Mouradian cleanin' on the bass, and the seasoned Levon Helm on the drumkit. Guests include compadres James Cotton on the harmonica, Kim Wilson with vocals and harp, Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson on vocals and guitar, and chanteuse Irma Thomas singing. Other help on individual tracks include bassist Michael 'Mudcat' Ward, with Paul Marrochello and Tim O'Connor sharing rhythm guitar duties.
Instantly relentless in its shaking rhythm foundation through the high-topped West Side guitar action, "All Your Love" comes in first with Luther "Guitar Junior" singing and lending that axe work. Irma Thomas puts her blues touch on the medley of Brook Benton and Doc Pomus material, "I'll Take Care Of You"/ "Lonely Avenue". The aptly titled "Mighty Fine Boogie" captures the pairing of harpsters Cotton and Wilson, besides fulfilling the title definition. The pair returns on "One More Mile" with the supportive and accenting axe of Earl. Standing out here is Eddie Taylor's "Bad Boy" with Johnson returning and Maxwell dancing on his keys. Throughout the stunning guitar of Ronnie Earl flits and flutters with strength, tenderness, and virtuosity as required.
It is difficult to express the sheer authenticity and deliverance put down by this platter. Five minute-plus versions of "No More", Last Night", and the over seven-minute "New Vietnam Blues" are added facets of this gem. Take these tunes apart as you listen ... the depth is incredibly real and the intake of such premium juice can only put more tiger into your tank. Irma, Kim, David and James (the friends) along with Ronnie have hit a musical jackpot with this issue. This is one to put on your own shopping list!
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This review is copyright © 2001 by Mark A. Cole, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, 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.