FOUR SHADES OF BLUES…Duke Robillard: Blues Full Circle, Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters: Maxwell Street, Johnny Nicholas: Fresh Air, Backtrack Blues Band: Way Back Home

If you want to hear a Fender rockin’ the groove, slide on into a naugahyde  booth and give these four bar bands a listen.

Duke Robillard is one of the bluesiest rockers around, and his latest team of Bruce Bears/p-B3, Brad Hallen/b and Mark Teixeira/dr shuffles off to buffalo. You get some extra smoky sax that jukes the joint on “Shufflin’ and Scufflin’” and Sugar Ray Norcia growls on the boogying “Last Night.” Teixeira snaps while Robillard bends the strings on a Crescent City stomping “Fool About My Money” and the band honky tonks like there’s no tomorrow on “Lay A Little Lovin’ On Me.” Low ceilings and a two drink cover!

Ronnie Earl has similar blues blood, and his band of Lorne Entress/dr, Dave Limina/p-B3, Jim Mouradian and Nicholas Tabarias/g stand out with a growling female vocalist Diane Blue (is that her real name?). She moans and the smoky “Double Trouble” and agonizes between fluid string things on “You Don’t Know Me” while roaring like a hungry tiger on “Kismet.” Earl himself shows clean pickings on the tasty “Mother Angel” and “Elegy For A Bluesman” while the team shuffles to a hip Hammond on “BroJoe.” Late night at the Moose  Lodge!

Johnny Nicholas sings, plays  piano, harmonica and a variety of guitars along with a core of Scrappy Jud Newcomb/g-mand, John Chipman/dr Bruce Hughes/b and the famous steel pedal queen Ciny Cashdollar. He plays a rich harp on “Moonight Train” and a rural “Bayou Blues”, while his voice mixing with the twanging steel strings puts red clay under your nails on a voracious “Back Door Man”. The band sometimes taps into its inner Rolling Stones as it rocks on “Morning In The Garden” while his voice is husky as it delivers along with a woozy B3 on the funky “Blues Time.” Swampy!

No pun intended, but the real “draw” of the Backtrack Blues Band is the multi-wheezing prowess of Sonny Charles and his collection of harmonicas. The band of Kid Royal/g, Littley Johnny Walter/g, Joe Bencomo/dr and Stick Davis/b swings like a tetherball, and they can shuffle on “Goin’ To Eleuthera” to step to “Baby Please Don’t Go” and go New Orleans funky during “Tell Your Daddy.” But all the while, Charles can growl like a hungry lion on “Rich Man Blues” hisses like a snake on “Help Me Just This Time” and hoots like a train whistle on the wailing “Shoot My Rooster.” The various tones and dynamics that Charles employs is impressive, and I’d love to have an instructional dvd of this one!

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