Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters
Toward the end of her long career, pianist Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981)—who rose to fame in the ’30s as a member of Andy Kirk’s Twelve Clouds of Joy—often talked about “the healing power of the blues.” Guitarist Ronnie Earl feels that his music can have the same effect. There’s no preaching here, however, for Earl doesn’t sing: the power that’s present in his music is entirely due to his mastery of his instrument. The passionate purity of his tone is equaled by his tasteful use of dynamics: See “Blues for the West Side,” an ode to some of the men who fueled his interest in the blues. Longtime Broadcaster Dave Limina’s B-3 provides the perfect accompaniment for Earl throughout—especially on “Bobby’s Bop,” which harks back to all the organ-guitar pairings of the ’50s. And his piano playing gives “Wolf Dance,” Earl’s tribute to Howlin’ Wolf’s guitarist Hubert Sumlin, a solid boost. I can’t think of another contemporary musician who can move as seductively between jazz and blues as Earl has so eloquently demonstrated on the 23 albums he’s released over the past quarter century. Simply put, this is one of the year’s best recordings.