Sunday, September 15, 2019

Ronnie Earl And The Broadcasters: “Beyond The Blue Door” (2019) CD Review

Ronnie Earl And The Broadcasters have been putting out fantastic records for a few decades now, dishing out delicious blues filled with soul and power and passion. Their new album, Beyond The Blue Door, features a good mix of original material and covers. The band has gone through some changes in personnel over the years, and now includes Ronnie Earl on guitar, Dave Limina on piano and organ, Diane Blue on vocals, Forrest Padgett on drums, and Paul Kochanski on bass. Plus, there are some special guests joining the band on this release, including Kim Wilson on harmonica and David Bromberg on acoustic guitar.

The album opens with a great cover of “Brand New Me,” featuring Diane Blue on vocals. She has a gorgeous, powerful voice, giving the track has a bluesy, yet cheerful sound. How good is life when she hits those high notes? Plus, this track features horns. Mario Perrett is on tenor saxophone and Scott Shetler is on baritone saxophone. Yes, I feel like I can take the world so long as there is music like this in it. And toward the end we get some really nice moments from Dave Limina on keys and Ronnie Earl on guitar. Things then get a whole lot deeper into the blues with a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Baby How Long.” Kim Wilson (of The Fabulous Thunderbirds) joins the group on vocals and harmonica, adding some wonderful and passionate work. And, oh, that guitar really sings over the good groove during that great lead section. It is that guitar part that really stands out on this track, though there is also plenty of nice stuff on keys throughout. That’s followed by a cool instrumental rendition of Henry Glover’s “Drown In My Own Tears” that is packed full of emotion. There is some great playing from everybody, but I am particularly moved by the lead on tenor saxophone by Greg Piccolo. When you think that lead might be over, it’s not. And then the saxophone and guitar interact, which is wonderful.

We then get the first original composition of the album, “Alexis’ Song.” This short instrumental track is a pretty and thoughtful number, and again features some excellent work by Greg Piccolo on saxophone. That’s followed by “The Sweetest Man,” another song written by Ronnie Earl, this one featuring Diane Blue on vocals. In this song, we hear of a man who is not treating his woman right, and she’s telling him that she can’t take it anymore. As you listen, you want him to do better, and you think maybe he will, but apparently fails, for at the end she sings “You are the only man I love/You were my lover and my friend/But you just can’t stay here no more.” This track contains another good groove and plenty of great guitar playing. Peter Ward joins the group on guitar on this one. I also really dig that stuff on keys. Ronnie Earl then delivers a very cool and unusual rendition of Bob Dylan’s “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry,” featuring David Bromberg on guitar and vocals. I love what these guys do with this song, giving it a kind of slow, relaxed vibe that is bloody delicious.

I love “A Soul That’s Been Abused” from the moment it starts. It has a mean, sexy, dark vibe, and Diane Blue really digs into your heart here. And there is a whole lot of excellent work on saxophone. Mario Perrett, Scott Shetler and Greg Piccolo all play on this one. Plus, there is some great stuff on organ. Really, every instrument is moving here, and what I like is that there are moments that are almost delicate. This track, written by Ronnie Earl, is one of my favorites. “Still, after all we’ve been through/I stand accused/From a soul that’s been abused.” Ronnie Earl And The Broadcasters’ cover of Little Walter’s “Blues With A Feeling” has some classic blues sounds, and features Kim Wilson on vocals and harmonica. Both Peter Ward and Scott MacDougal join the group on guitar. That’s followed by a couple of cool instrumental tracks, “T-Bone Stomp” and “Wolf Song,” both composed by Ronnie Earl.

“Bringing Light (To A Dark Time)” has a catchy groove, and some wonderful work on guitar, as well as another excellent vocal performance from Diane Blue. “Time to bring some light to a dark time,” she sings. Amen. This one was written by Paul Kochanski and Diane Blue. “Silence ain’t golden/It’s complicit in the crime/It don’t bring any light into a dark time.” Yes, this track is a blues gem addressing our times. And speaking of our times, the album concludes with a track titled “Blues For Charlottesville.” This one is an instrumental composed by Ronnie Earl.

CD Track List
  1. Brand New Me
  2. Baby How Long
  3. Drown In My Own Tears
  4. Alexis’ Song
  5. The Sweetest Man
  6. It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry
  7. A Soul That’s Been Abused
  8. Why Can’t We Live Together
  9. Blues With A Feeling
  10. T-Bone Stomp
  11. Wolf Song
  12. Peace Of Mind
  13. Drowning In A Sea Of Love
  14. Bringing Light (To A Dark Time)
  15. Blues For Charlottesville 
Beyond The Blue Door was released on August 30, 2019 on Stony Plain Records.

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