Harpman, vocalist, and songwriter Sugar Ray Norcia is coming back to the traditional blues formulae that inspired his step into the business years ago. Well-known for his work through the nineties fronting Roomful of Blues, Norcia has jumped into a solo career that is rising like the proverbial phoenix. Norcia's discography with work on Bullseye, Telarc, and JSP, speaks for itself. This is his premier effort with Maryland-based Severn Records and it seeks to find that bluesy Norcian pre-Roomful spirit .
The Bluetones are reincarnated here with Norcia at the helm singing and hittin' hot registers. Norcia's smokey vocal character cuts to the chase as does his dynamic chromatic work. He is supported by the powered up rhythms given chase by Michael 'Mudcat' Ward on the bass, and Neil Gouvin on the drumkit. Kid Bangham, an ex-Bluetone, is heard providing the sterling guitar leads and rhythms. Performing like they have shared decades working together, the ensemble delivers tight executions, arrangements, and compositions. Sugar Ray has inked six originals here; Bangham and Ward one each! With a Slim Harpo tune, a Little Walter song, and one from Junior Well's songbook (written by Robey-Washington), Norcia and crew get down further!
There's real strengths in works like Ward's "She's Blued and Broken", Bangham's spooky "Room 531", and Ray's "The Picture", "Warm Hearted Woman", and "Low Down Lady". The work as a whole stays away from obvious jump stylings he was accustomed to, and seeks to find musical directions that reach back to more standard and traditional recipes. A wonderfully wicked set of blues that puts Norcia plop in the middle of his element. A biscuit to be recommended to all!
Severn Records, Inc.; P.O. Box 1450; Millersville, MD 21108: or, www.severnrecords.com
This review is copyright © 2001 by Mark A. Cole, 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.