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Sugar Ray and the Bluetones|
Hands Across the Table
Review Date: December 2008
by Mark E. Gallo
Sugar Ray Norcia is one of the finest blues singers to ever grace a stage or recording studio. As a harp player he stands among the finest of the era. He proved both decisively as front man for Roomful of Blues and with the Bluetones before and after Roomful. The loping title tune that opens this exquisite 2005 set is proof positive on both fronts. Vocal and electric guitar dominate, with a snappy drum in a stark and extended opening. When the bass kicks in the essence remains barebones and fully fleshed out at the same time. The 13 tunes that grace this 10-star collection are mostly comprised of original material, with three well-placed covers in the mix. The first rate accompaniment from guitarist Paul Size, long-time pal Tony Geraci on piano, the always exciting Michael ‘Mudcat’ Ward on bass, and drummer Neal Gouvin (drums) is augmented by a superb horn section of former Roomful of Blues mates, here called the Providence Horns. Carl Querfurth’s trombone and Dog James’ baritone and tenor saxophones give this spice, drive and pizzazz throughout. The harp-driven instrumental of “Cloud Cover” is inspired, “Say You Love Me (Before I Hang Up)” is hard rocking R&B like few outside of these Rhode Islanders are capable of producing. “The Last Blues Song” is gorgeous and the closing “End Time” reminds a bit of country great Charlie McCoy. The covers of “That’s My Desire,” “(I’m Gonna Break Into) Folsom Prison” and “River Stay ‘Way From My Door,” a tune done to perfection by Jimmy Rushing and Dave Brubeck and done nearly as well here, are all exquisite. This is certainly a homerun for Sugar Ray, as if he were capable of anything less.
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