Sugar Ray Norcia is a force of nature, a stompin', shoutin', spittin', harp playin' cyclone who cannot restrain himself lest somewhere in the Milky Way, stars might begin to go out. For starters here, the esteemed gent just kicks the shit out of Johnny Young's I'm Having a Ball as the disc opens with a crash, lightning shooting out of the speakers. If you've never heard Sugar Ray, all you need is that one slice, and your ears will instantly hunger for more. His voice is irresistible, fierce and alive, a red-eyed demon jumping from belly and lungs straight to the corner bar and downing a fifth of the Turkey before commencing to pull up floor boards and bring down the thunder. Severn Records, like the Stony Plain label, has an uncanny knack for finding the wolverines of the blues world, and if you doubt, then lay an ear to Norcia's back-up band as well. Man, are those bad actors ever a brace of snarling coyotes howling at the crescent moon as it slips behind the mountains!
Put this band with Duke Robillard's on a double bill, and the local hospitals would find themselves filling up with heart attack cases, surgeons working frantically to bring ear-to-ear grins of pure pleasure back into line as the owners twitch and pulse, muttering ecstatically about the good old days coming back again, downing the anaesthetist's rubbing alcohol in lusty swigs and swallows. Sugar Ray's is the kind of music that just makes you want to get drunk and start hollerin', doing the razorback stomp with equally looped pals and strangers. He's well famed for that lusty voice, but his harp playing is equally a show of bravura, alternatingly strident and invasive and then smooth and lilting.
Yeah, this is definitely music from another time, and the logbook shows that Norcia's paid his dues handsomely, appearing on discs by Roomful of Blues (one of his earliest and chiefest inspirations), Pinetop Perkins, Ronnie Earl (an former bandmate), Big Walter Horton, even the aforementioned Duke and an array of some of the biggest names in the business. The Bluetones have opened for Big Joe Turner, Roosevelt Sykes, and others while Hubert Sumlin and Ted Harvey were once members. Hell, Jeeter, even the angel Gabriel doesn't get that kind of respect!
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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