I Feel Like Goin' On
Stony Plain (2003) 1289
11 tracks, 75 minutes.
by Craig Ruskey
Review date: July 2003
"Keeping the Blues Alive Award"|
Achievement for Blues on the Internet
Presented by The Blues Foundation
With 2003 being labeled "The Year of the Blues," one might wonder about the large
number of music journalists proclaiming that real blues doesn't exist anymore. Some say it
went to the grave with Charley Patton or Robert Johnson in the 1930s, while others feel it
was gone by the end of Chicago's golden years of the 1950s, and some swear its last gasp
came in the 1980s when Big Walter Horton, Muddy Waters, and Lightnin' Hopkins drew their
final breaths. The plain and simple truth is that blues is alive, well, and breathing on its own
without the aid of artificial life-support systems, and if I Feel Like Goin' On is
any indication, blues could be due for a banner year. From his early days with Sugar Ray &
The Bluetones, to a lengthy stretch with Roomful Of Blues, plus a solo and sideman career
that has given us staggering examples of his blues guitar prowess, Ronnie Earl has
stepped up to deliver his finest slice of work yet on this, his Stony Plain debut.
Managing to capture the full scope of passion and intensity within the confines of a studio
isn't the easiest thing to accomplish, and it's even tougher when an artist decides to go
almost all-instrumental, but from the searing opener, the shuffling Hey Jose, Earl is
clearly running with all eight cylinders wide open and fuel pouring from the handpicked
band of Dave Limina on keyboards, Jimmy Mouradian on bass, and Lorne Entress snapping
out the crisp backbeats. Blues For Otis Rush is a grinding eight-and-a-half minute slow
blues with a wide variety of tonal variations that run from brittle and piercing to thick and
distorted, but Ronnie's trademark has always been the unerring and innate sense of when
and where to leave space and breathing room, again amply displayed on Little Johnny
Lee, a rustling tribute to Mr. Hooker. Wolf Dance and Howlin' For My Darlin'
call on Chester Burnett and Hubert Sumlin without simply rehashing worn grooves, and the
disc's only vocals appear on Mary Don't You Weep as the Silver Leaf Gospel Singers
take everyone to church while Ronnie tears off licks that cut like shards of glass. Blues For
The Homeless is more than eleven minutes of sheer beauty where Earl takes things from
near-silent whispers to full-throttle dynamics and back again, while Big Walter throws
a nod to a fallen hero with gritty Chicago feel. Alone With The Blues is more pensive
without any accompaniment and a rolling Delta sense but Hank Marr's Travelin'
Heavy honors a little-known B-3 giant with plenty of horsepower over a memorable riff,
and the set closes with Donna showing the disc's sweeter moments.
When blues is delivered by a true master, one who has the utmost respect and admiration
for those who came before, it's bound to be enjoyable, but when it's played by one of the
most passionate and expressive instrumentalists the music has ever known, it becomes
much more. Ronnie Earl has created a true modern masterpiece with I Feel
Like Goin' On. The focus is squarely on blues, and regardless of how much guitar is
here, it stands as an exemplary piece of work from one of the genre's most-respected
players. Kudos to Jose Alvarez for sizzling six-string and to the Silver Leaf Gospel Singers for a
touching and heartwarming appearance that will undoubtedly lift the spirits of those
listening. Absolutely brilliant!
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