Since his tenure as lead guitarist with Roomful of Blues in the 1980s, Ronnie Earl has established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the crowded universe of blues guitarists. Influenced by old masters like T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, Magic Sam and Robert Lockwood Jr., Earl is a traditionalist and an innovator at the same time, merging old-school Chicago and Delta blues with more contemporary sensibilities.
In 2000, Earl dazzled fans and critics alike with the instrumental Healing Time (CD-83490), a jazz-flavored Telarc recording with unmistakably spiritual underpinnings. "Put this one on at three in the morning," one Blues Access writer suggested of Healing Time, "or any time you need to be healed by a cool wash of soulful blues and bluesy jazz." Blues Revue, meanwhile, noted that "this guitar god is as comfortable with the jazz idiom as he is with the blues."
But Earl has never been one to stray too far from his roots. Ronnie Earl and Friends, his followup on Telarc, is a multi-generational gathering of blues artists seeking to recreate the lively, impromptu spirit of the old Delmark blues recordings of the '60s, when heavyweights like Junior Wells, Otis Spann and Buddy Guy, Fred Below and the Myers brothers were at the peak of their powers—as individuals and as collaborators.
The guest list on Ronnie Earl and Friends includes some of the most prominent living blues artists. Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson contributes lead vocals on the midtempo opener, "All Your Love," while Irma Thomas lends her pipes to the sultry medley, "I'll Take Care of You/Lonely Avenue." Fabulous Thunderbirds alumnus Kim Wilson brings his vocal and harp skills to a half-dozen tracks, including the B.B. King classic, "Rock Me Baby," and trades harp licks with Chicago blues veteran James Cotton on "One More Mile," "No More" and "Mighty Fine Boogie." Levon Helm, drummer and co-founder of the Band, keeps it all together and in the pocket with tight drumming on all thirteen tracks.
Veteran journalist Ted Drozdowski, who was on hand when tape was rolling at Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, NY, in November 2000, called the sessions "a full-on collaboration between Ronnie and people he has known and loved for years."
Born Ronald Horvath in Queens, New York, in 1953, Ronnie Earl discovered the blues at a Muddy Waters performance in Boston in 1975. From that point forward, he was on a mission to absorb every note and nuance of giants like Robert Lockwood Jr., B.B. King, Magic Sam, T-Bone Walker and others. After a few years in the Boston club scene, he replaced Roomful of Blues founding guitarist Duke Robillard in 1980 and remained with them for most of the decade. He launched a solo career in the mid-'80s that has garnered multiple W.C. Handy Awards, including Best Blues Guitarist in 1999, and joined the Telarc label with the release of Healing Time in the summer of 2000.
Ronnie Earl and Friends is the guitarist's first all-blues (and nearly all-vocal) album in nearly 10 years. Meet some of Earl's old friends on this new recording, and get an earful of good blues while you're making their acquaintance.