Sometimes I’m a little taken aback when somebody says they haven’t heard of a particular artist. I think “What? You’ve never heard of Louie Ver Danderschmidt?! Wow!!”.
But in the split second after that thought comes the reality that, hey, membership is the MusicalConsumerPigClub™ is fairly exclusive. A nicer way to put that is that most people have more sense than me when it comes to how they spend their extra dollars. Some people replace their jeans when holes begin to form in the knees…while I’d prefer to buy that Smithsonian Folkways box set and ignore the breeze tickling my knee caps.
I recently discovered that one of my musical cohorts, a guy who I bet might forgo a new pair of pants in favor of an obscure Muddy Waters record, has never heard the music of blues guitarist Ronnie Earl. I’m sorry, I just can’t let that situation continue. Earl is one of my favorite blues players. It’s a tough chore to make an instrumental blues record interesting from start to finish. Earl has such a knack for putting together snappy rhythm guitar that those hooks, along with some fine lead work, keep my ears glued to the speakers.
My first live encounter with Ronnie Earl was at the great (and now long gone) Portland, Maine establishment Raoul’s Roadside Attraction. The opening of the show was kinda frightening. Guys are tuning up. Drumheads are being tweaked. The B3 player is fiddling with something or other. Earl walks across the stage. None of the bandmembers pay him any notice whatsoever. He plugs in his guitar and gives the volume knob a slight turn. Still, no one in the band even looks up. Then, with four quick slams of his heel to the stage, he (and the band….I thought for sure he was going to catch one or all of ’em off guard) launches into a blistering instrumental stomp. I was completely mesmerized.
A few years later, I saw Earl and his band, The Broadcasters, just mop up the stage at the Great Woods Blues Festival. This was the show that ended with poor Robert Cray. Poor? Yes, because he had to follow not only Ronnie Earl, but Koko Taylor, Danny Gatton and Los Lobos. Ouch.
Though I Like It When It Rains does have a few vocal numbers, the instrumentals show the way starting off with the roadhouse rumble of “Ridin With Ronnie” to the near jazz of “Mutcika” to the country blues on electric of “Blues For Jimmie and Jessie” to the acoustic and harmonica version of “Sittin’ On Top Of The World”.
So if you’re thinking that maybe you need to take a trip to The Gap this weekend, maybe you should reconsider and head to your local record-type establishment. You’ll be glad you did.
(First posted on Mark Is Cranky)Powered by Sidelines