CD Hope Radio (CD 1156465), Audio Other
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Hope Radio

  • 1. Eddie's Gospel Groove
    2. Bobby's Bop
    3. Blues for the West Side
    4. I Am with You
    5. Katrina Blues
    6. Wolf Dance
    7. Kay My Dear
    8. Blues for the Homeless
    9. Beautiful Child
    10. Blues for Otis Rush
    11. New Gospel Tune
  • Additional Info
    Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): 1324

  • Credits
    ProducerLorne Entress; Billy Ryan; Tom Hazeltine; Lorne Entress
    EngineerHuck Bennert; Huck Bennert

    Ronnie Earl: Ronnie Earl; Dave Limina (Hammond b-3 organ); Jimmy Mouradian (bass instrument); Lorne Entress, Mudcat Ward.
    Personnel: Ronnie Earl (guitar); Nick Adams (guitar); Mudcat Ward (piano, upright bass, electric bass); Dave Limina (piano); Lorne Entress (drums).
    Additional personnel: Nick Adams (guitar).
    Audio Mixer: Huck Bennert.
    Liner Note Authors: Ronnie Earl; David Wilson .
    Recording information: Wellspring Studios, Acton, MA (04/21/2007-04/22/2007).
    Author: David Wilson .
    Photographers: Billy Ryan; Holger Petersen.
    Other than jazz and classical, there are few other musical genres where vocals don't dominate, but Ronnie Earl sets out to prove that blues can be another. This entirely instrumental album never lags for a second of its hour-and-a-quarter playing time, all without a word being sung. Instead, Earl uses his magnificent guitar tone -- a stinging combination of Santana, Hubert Sumlin, Mike Bloomfield, Otis Rush, and Albert King -- and command of dynamics to wring more soul from his material than all but a handful of vocalists could ever achieve. He does this without the blinding speed or enhanced volume of the most popular blues six-stringers, but by the sheer intensity of his playing on these 11 tracks. Recording live in the studio with an invited audience (the session was also captured for a DVD release) provides the cliff-hanging excitement of a concert, allowing Earl, whose multiple health problems prevent him from touring, to tear it up in a more controlled setting. A few acoustic tracks such as "Katrina Blues" provide a changeup from the spark-shooting electric solos that dominate this dazzling performance. All Earl needs is a touch of reverb and bandmembers who understand when to lay low to let him soar. That's what happens during this session, cherry-picked from two days of concerts in April 2007. Drummer/producer Lorne Entress deserves recognition for a light touch on percussion and, perhaps more importantly, letting Earl stretch out for extended periods of whispering solos, as he does on the eight-minute Howlin' Wolf/Hubert Sumlin tribute "Wolf Dance." He opens up on the following slow blues of "Kay My Dear," laying back with smooth yet tensile jazzy licks over the faintest of backing at the song's start, only to gradually build to a dull roar by the track's end. Few guitarists could capture a listener's interest so confidently over longer tunes, but Earl pulls it off with an effortless precision that seems second nature. Six of the selections break the eight-minute mark, but none are needlessly drawn out with the directionless riffing so endemic to less inventive blues guitarists. The tempos, especially in the album's middle third, stay restrained and perhaps a few more upbeat tracks would have helped the disc's flow. Regardless, it's unlikely any listener will complain when Earl tears into the nearly ten-minute "Blues for Otis Rush," as he whips off a frenzy of soul-drenched notes that machine gun out of his fingers. The live environment adds thrilling high-wire tension to a guitarist who is already in the upper echelon of his peers. ~ Hal Horowitz

  • Critic Reviews
    Down Beat (p.73) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "[H]is deeply personal process of squeezing out taut, precise notes during many slow passages makes for riveting listening."
    Dirty Linen (pp.40-41) - "[B]rilliant....HOPE RADIO displays the genius of Ronnie Earl. This release will make fans anxious to see him perform live."
    Dirty Linen (p.75) - "HOPE RADIO captures Earl at his best, performing live....[The recording] not only demonstrates his string mastery but pays homage to such bluesman as Buddy Guy..."
    Mojo (Publisher) (p.111) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[He] grinds out guitar-and-Hammond jazz-funk. In more contemplative mood, he spins out of the air anthems for the disadvantaged."
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