The year 2003 marks a few milestones for acclaimed guitarist Ronnie Earl.
This year he celebrates his 50th birthday. It is also the 20th anniversary
of his first solo recording. Finally, it sees the release of Earl's first
album for the Canadian Stony Plain label.
The band jump right in on "Hey Joe," the first of eight originals. Earl's
stinging ringing tone sets the standard for the rest of the album. He is
backed by his current road band, which explains why things sound so good
even on the first take, recorded live in the studio. Dave Limina does a
particularly fine job on keyboards, and the rhythm section--Jimmy Mouradian
(bass) and Lorne Entress (drums)--are always on the money.
Throughout the album Earl acknowledges several blues giants. "Blues For
Otis Rush," a slow burner featuring some classic early Rush-style guitar,
is followed by the excellent boogie, "Little Johnny Lee," for John Lee
Hooker, and "Wolf Dance" tips a nod in towards Chester Burnett. The band
also cover Wolf's "Howlin' For My Darlin'," while the last name check falls
to Walter Horton on "Big Walter," a rollicking tune that chugs along
The only vocal track is "Mary Don't You Weep," which features the Silver
Leaf Gospel Singers. The tune starts fairly low key, as everyone attempts
to find their feet in the novel setting. The engine room's steady beat
forms the backdrop, while Earl adds appropriate little fills and trills
without ever stealing the limelight from the singers. The end result is a
rousing Gospel workout and, judging by the whooping and hollering at the
end, was as much fun to record as it is to listen to.
Two of the low and slow tunes are dedicated to the homeless: "Blues For The
Homeless" to the New England Homeless Veteran's Association, and "Alone
With The Blues" to the homeless of Boston. The former racks up over 11
minutes, but is never dull. Although it mostly features restrained
interplay between guitar and piano, Earl lets rip with some searing but
highly tasteful guitar with three minutes to go. The latter song--just Earl
and Mouradian--remains pretty restrained throughout. The band then show off
one of their other sides with "Travelin' Heart," a fine tune with Limina
playing the part of Jimmy McGriff, before closing out with "Donna." This is
another warm, relaxed number which once more demonstrates the chemistry
between Earl and Limina.
All serious blues guitar lovers need at least one Ronnie Earl album, and "I
Feel Like Goin' On" is a very good place to start. It demonstrates why Earl
is described as a guitarist's guitarist. He plays with heart and soul,
always finding the right lick at the right time. Stir in a very tight band
and you have a recipe for success. Earl has proclaimed "I Feel Like Goin'
On" as his favorite studio album: I cannot argue with that!
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