If you're not already familiar with Ronnie Earl, then you've been missing a vital part of the new blues. He's issued a lot of releases—I have a number of his Blacktop and Bullseye numbers and this is his fifth for the Stony Plain label—and the guy wields a wickedly inventive hand on the guitar he's so famed for. Catch the layout in the first cut, Love Love Love and see what I mean. It's lean, slow, and soulful in what has sadly almost become a dead form nowadays, even in the blues. Then he jumps it back into searing mode and re-commences bringing back the old Brit style, standing alongside Stan Webb and the UK's best.
Ronnie recently kicked a dependency demon and found God, but if you think that's affected his playing one iota...well, you're right: it's even better. The 12 cuts here are as alive and kicking as anything he's ever done. The man's overwhelmed to be alive, happy, married, and clean, and every minute of this CD is testament to it. With the usual quartet format, he fills out the disc with long involved solos and interplay—and, whoo-hoo, can that Dave Limina push his Hammond to the edge! Reflecting the vitality some get when turning to religion, Earl takes on Dylan's What Can I Do for You, getting down and gospely. He thanks his wife for sticking with him and saving his life, memorializing his gratitude in a return to the fundament of the style he's pursued his entire life, a John Lee Hooker-styled Donna Lee, one of two cuts co-written with Rev. Deborah Blanchard, an acoustic cut reducing everything to the roots and featuring brother Kim Wilson on a backwoods harp.
Don't think for a moment that Ronnie's going to be putting on a robe and singing vespers, it ain't the guy's style. Instead, there's a renewed dedication to his gifts, and his legion of fans will soon be dancing in the streets over it…though they may also settle back for a moment or two of reflection, as the beautiful Pastorale floats out to close the disc in a serene, balladic, almost adagio'ed starry night of refreshing lead lines and chords designed to settle the mind and sooth the heart after a cavalcade of scorchers.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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