Folks familiar with FAME may or may not be aware of my career-spanning shyness when it comes to reviewing blues records. Somehow, no matter how authentic, rooted, gritty, or whatever the blues parlance may be, by three or four songs it all sounds the same to me. Of course, as there is with everything attached to this embattled domain, there have been exceptions. 'Hope Radio' is one of them.
Two-time W.C. Handy "Guitarist of the Year", Ronnie Earl's influences are the usual, oft-listed legends (Muddy Waters, Big Joe Turner, Otis Rush…) but he sure channels Stevie Ray Vaughn like no one's business. And maybe there are a handful of purists and experts out there who will argue that Earl possesses or does not possess SRV's touch and technique, but I will tell you that he sure has his sound and, most of all, his soul. They may also nit-pick that The Broadcasters—Dave Limina (piano, Hammond B3), Jim Mouradian (bass), Lorne Entress (drums), and guest Michael 'Mudcat' Ward (bass, piano)—may not be as visceral as Double Trouble, but these boys know deep how to hold a groove and swing.
Recorded and filmed earlier this year live at Wellspring Sound in Acton, Massachusetts, 'Hope Radio' blows the doors open with the Santana sounding Eddie's Gospel Groove, slips effortlessly into Bobby's Bop (wherein B3ist Limina conjures Jimmy McGriff), then builds fiercely into the scorching, SRV fueled Blues For The West Side and I Am With You. From there, RE & the B'casters keep their lamps trimmed (Blues for the Homeless) and burning (Wolf Dance and Blues for Otis Rush). A rare solo acoustic turn Katrina Blues bears testimony to the emotional resiliency not only the player, but of the people of the Crescent City. "Hope Radio" unlike 97% of the radio frequencies jamming our airspace, deserves to be—no, strike that—absolutely needs to be heard by everyone, blues aficionado or not.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2007, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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