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Now My Soul

Ronnie Earl

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Album Review

Guitarist Ronnie Earl's realization that you don't need a vocalist to sing the blues freed him up to roam across the vernacular music landscape, dipping into jazz, gospel, and soul, and has made him one of the most innovative and interesting musicians working in contemporary blues. It's hardly a radical step, since scores of jazz musicians have been mining the blues for 80 years without vocalists, and in Earl's case it was a natural shift — maybe even an obvious one given that he has often cited John Coltrane as a predominant influence. On Now My Soul, his second release from Stony Plain Records, Earl moves a bit back to neutral ground on the vocal issue, with roughly half the tracks featuring singing from either Kim Wilson or Greg Piccolo, and one track, the delightful "Walkin on the Sea," showcases the Silver Leaf Gospel Singers. But the instrumental pieces are the most powerful, allowing Earl's inherent jazz sensibilities to surface, and as an ensemble player, he shines. The album opener, Jimmy Smith's "Blues for J," does a masterful job of capturing Smith's easy-grooving sense of the blues (Dave Limina handles the B-3 duties here), and Piccolo's tenor sax pairs nicely with Earl's guitar for a track that shows nicely how much joy can reside inside the blues. "Kay My Dear" visits the same territory, only in darker hues, and when the Silver Leaf Gospel Singers hit with "Walkin on the Sea," one is reminded that the blues is really more about releasing what haunts us than it is about bottling things up in a primal moan-and-groan session. Of the vocal pieces, a cover of Otis Rush's "Double Trouble" works best, with Wilson's singing and ghostly harmonica runs slipping in and out of a wonderfully ominous and atmospheric soundscape. An untitled 13th track finds Earl sincerely thanking God, friends, and fans for the privilege of playing, and it touches on his battles with manic depression, diabetes, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Perhaps that's what comes through in the best moments on this album — that sense of joyous deliverance Earl's guitar playing reaches when the blues becomes a vehicle of release and transcendence and he takes himself (and his audience) to a place where the pain drops away. In the end, the blues isn't about pain at all. It's about what resides (to quote Blind Willie Johnson) in the soul of a man, and what he chooses to do with it. For that you really don't need words.

Customer Reviews

Love you Ronnie

In spite of all the problems and the pain, this man just keeps going and putting out amazing music. He has become my favorite musician over the past 3 years. None better. Buy this one 4 sure. Peace.

talking fingers

this man speaks through his fingers...... great stuff

Biography

Born: March 10, 1953 in Queens, New York, NY

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the finest blues guitarists to emerge during the '80s, Ronnie Earl often straddled the line between blues and jazz, throwing in touches of soul and rock as well. His versatility made him one of the few blues guitarists capable of leading an almost entirely instrumental outfit, and his backing band the Broadcasters became one of the more respected...
Full Bio