Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters – Good News (2014)

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Anytime former Roomful of Blues guitar maestro Ronnie Earl puts out a fresh set of tunes with his Broadcasters backing band, it’s good news. Good News, going on sale June 17, 2014, justifies why practically any new Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters album is a welcome event in the blues world.

Once again leading a solid band that includes Dave Limina on piano and organ, Jim Mouradian on bass and Lorne Entress on drums, Earl’s eighth Stony Plain release has plenty of soul-igniting blues instrumentals as before and a few vocal turns by Diane Blue, who also starred on Earl & The Broadcaster’s 2013 live souvenir Just For Today.

Finding inspiration for the title from Sam Cooke’s fifty-year-old LP Ain’t That Good News, Good News also includes the centerpiece song from that disc, the civil rights anthem “Change Is Gonna Come.” Blue belts it out and matches Earl’s intensity on the retrofitted bridge. She leads a pulsing, straight-up blues paean to the Boston Marathon bombing called “Runnin’ In Peace” and Earl finishes it off by channeling the sorrow through his six string.

All the great blues guitarists play with passion and fire; Earl does that and adds a celestial quality missing from most of them; you’ll find that in Peter Green, Stevie Ray Vaughan and a few others, but not many. Or as Mark Saleski so aptly wrote in raving on Earl’s Spread The Love CD, “emotions were on display via angst-ridden bent notes and furious clusters of joy.” Just because most of Ronnie Earl’s songs are instrumentals don’t make it jazz; he’s always maintained a touch of that music style in his playing but keeps things within the context of blues.

That balance makes the extended, mostly instrumental blues ballad “In The Wee Hours” go a long way (along with a nice second lead guitar from Zach Zunis), and that B3 organ leading the chugging Santana groove of “Time To Remember” sets the table for Earl’s tasteful licks. Limina pours on thick slabs of organ for another instrumental, “Blues For Henry,” which Earl composed with the late blues guitar giant Hubert Sumlin.

Good News, like all Ronnie Earl & The Broadcaster records since their 1990 debut, is where intense soul and stylish exploits intersect.

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