Sugar Ray & The Bluetones
Sugar Ray & The Bluetones - Featuring Monster Mike Welch
Severn (2003) CD 0019
13 tracks, 58 minutes
by Craig Ruskey
Review date: March 2003
"Keeping the Blues Alive Award"|
Achievement for Blues on the Internet
Presented by The Blues Foundation
A better combination of a singer and harp player than Sugar Ray Norcia is hard to find. While a couple
of others come to mind that can't be denied consideration, there are very few that can match Norcia's
potent, booming voice and gripping harmonica work, a style that cuts through the smoke without any
fanfare or overdone solo spots. This brand new, self-titled Bluetones CD is a set of blistering and
greasy blues from beginning to end, and words just won't do it justice, but an attempt will be made.
With the departure of Kid Bangham coming on the heels of their last Severn release, Rockin' Sugar
Daddy (2001), the Bluetones picked the talents of Mike Welch, a young New England blues
guitarist, who more than capably fills the void here, and Welch shows just how much his playing has
matured since his varied solo efforts from past years. Michael "Mudcat" Ward and Neil Gouvin staple
the rhythms as well as any pair, and ex-Bluetone, Anthony Geraci, steps in to offer solid piano and
Hammond organ. From the opening of I Believe (the first of five Welch originals), the crew is
back in their element delivering a no-holds-barred shuffle that drills and drives, balancing fat-toned harp
and searing guitar, and for Love And Trouble, Welch proves his mettle playing with a burning
intensity and riveting tone over a lowdown groove that speaks volumes on just how dangerous this band
is. Norcia's own Feeling Blue is a lazy acoustic ballad with backwoods harp (offering touches of
Big Walter Horton) and exceptional singing, and the riveting Tell Me What's Going On has all
the earmarks of being some forgotten Chicago gem from the 1950s. Mudcat Ward's writing skills are
simply amazing, and while he's offered a number of songs over the years, it's perhaps far too
infrequent; his Burial Season is both riveting and emotional - it honestly doesn't get much better
than this. Welch steps out on Albert King's Funk-Shun, a blazing display of guitar, and for the
T-Bone-like I Asked My Baby, Norcia's vocal matches the best of Texas from decades past,
while Tomorrow Morning, another Welch original, has as much bristling energy as anything
Howlin' Wolf ever cut. New England's premier blues quartet, Sugar Ray & The Bluetones are
at it again, and sounding as great as ever... end of story. www.severnrecords.com
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