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Sugar Ray & The Bluetones|
Hands Across The Table
(Severn Records, 2005 #0033)
Review Date: October 2007
by Bill Halaszynski
I think that it’s about time to include Sugar Ray
Norcia in any and all discussions concerning just who
are the current day Blues masters. Hands Across The
Table is yet another sterling example of the singer,
songwriter, harp player’s ability to meld influences
from varying realms into a distinctive, satisfying
sound. Aside from the obvious Jump Blues and Chicago
influences there are hints of classic large ensemble
R&B as well as a somewhat pronounced Country influence
in there also. He’s got that supple crooner’s voice
that wraps around a lyric and is capable of caressing,
cajoling and catapulting it into the heavens.
Longtime Bluetones Mudcat Ward(bass), Neil
Gouvin(drums) and Anthony Geraci(piano) are joined by
ex-Red Devils guitarist Paul Size to provide
extra-firm support. These guys know just what Norcia
needs and hit all the right notes, no matter which
direction the music travels. Doug Jones(saxes) and
Carl Querfurth(trombone) add the icing with their
spirited horn charts. In the end, however, it’s all
about the man up front. There’s wit and want in his
lyrics as well as the vocals that convey them. It
doesn’t hurt that he can blow the harp with the best
of them either. Ray Norcia is a fully matured talent
with all his tools in optimum working order.
The title track opener gets things started with a
building arrangement that keeps everybody in the
pocket, allowing Ray the chance to punctuate his
thankful lyrics with joyous, wailing harp. And,
things just roll on from there, gathering momentum.
Size follows in the recent footsteps of Kid Bangham
and Monster Mike Welch with his tasteful Texas tone
that keeps things moving while adding just the right
lead lines as needed. Everything works from top to
bottom. Highlights include the wonderful slow blues,
“Dark Roads Calling’” that allows Size to step up and
shine. “River Stay Away From My Door,” crosses the
country path with wonderful input from the horn
section that nicely counterpoints Ray’s bouncing
vocals and Geraci’s bounding piano. There’s a warm
bass-end present whether it be from Queforth’s
trombone, Jone’s baritone saxophone or Norcia’s deep,
rich vocals. Ward keeps the bottom end loose and
moving with his understated bass lines. If you love
the Blues and how they make you feel, Hands Across the
table is a full plate of the music’s best ingredients.
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