Though the front and back covers do not extol the fact, a rather curious absenture, Ronnie Earl's latest Just for Today is a live anthology of gigs presumably from a recent tour, though that's not cited either, and the stage, we all know, has always been one of the stringbender's best venues, imbuing his work with that extra touch of depth and spontaneity available only in such environs, as well as a certain timbre obtainable nowhere but when you're in front of a crowd and interacting. There's also, however, an invisible ambiance of intimacy had in clubs and the smaller halls, places where the player can really understand fully where his audience is at, drink in the vibe, and work with it. That's the case here, immediately made evident on the second cut, the slow and gentle Blues for Celie incorporating jazz and hi-toned folk into the long (9:32) blues evolving in several directions at once…which, by the time it concludes, gets SRV-ish and raucous (you know Ronnie, he just can't hold himself down!).
The band this time out is a quartet, and the disc is almost exclusively instrumental, vocals from Diane Blue occurring on just one selection, the classic I'd Rather Go Blind. More, over half the songs clock in past the 6-minute mark, four of them sprinting past eight, so this ain't no fake-book fest, y'all, this is thinking man's blues (dig the uphill climb in Miracle, simple but extremely effective, something Ronnie Montrose was so damn good at), with the bulk of the cuts written or co-written by the axehandler. In Just for Today, though, Earl takes care to pay back those who created him: Hubert Sumlin (Blues for Hubert Sumlin), Otis Rush (Rush Hour), and Robert Nighthawk (Robert Nighthawk Stomp) while carrying on their, and of course his own, work throughout the CD.
The rest of the band performs well, Dave Limina especially given a cool-ass romp in his own Vernice's Boogie, but this is Earl's showcase and rightly so. There's no such thing as too much guitar music, and the balance here between the thundering and the cerebral is exquisitely laid—street level and proletarian, absolutely, but THAT'S the blues, y'all, face it, and it's quite possible to sit both gritty chops and reverie side by side with compromise to neither. Ronnie does it a lot, and Just for Today may well be his most mature outing. The audience sure as hell thinks so, as rapt in the exploratory passages as in the head-knockers…and there's an extremely satisfying plenitude of laid back ingenuity everywhere in this release.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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