BLUES ‘N BOOGIE…Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters: The Luckiest Man, Johnny Nicolas & Friends: Too Many Bad Habits, Kevin Breit: Johnny Goldtooth & The Chevy Casanovas

Here are some albums that vividly capture the past, present and future of the blues.

Guitarist Ronnie Earl teams up with his Broadcasters of Davive Limina/p-B3, Diane Blue/voc, Forrest Padgett/dr and Paul Kochanski/b as well as a roomful of guests on this foot stomping session. The Hammond hums to Blue’s earthy voice on “Ain’t That Loving You” and the snarling “Heartbreak (It’s Hurtin’ Me.” The team takes you to Kansas City on the shufflin’ “Southside Stomp” and walks the blues as the strut on “Howlin’ Blues.” Earl himself makes the strings cry, be it on the acoustic “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” or the searingly electric “Long Lost Conversation.” Fun on the frets!


Back in the 1970s Johnny Nicholas performed in various settings with blues giants during various Blues Festivals. He played a mean piano and blues mandolin himself, occasionally singing at times, but his goal was to record the likes of Big Walter Horton/harp, Johnny Shines/g and pianist Boogie Woogie Red in various settings along with drummer Martin Gross. The result is a gloriously earthy 2 cd set that, while at times short in fidelity, is long and wide on heart.

Nicholas’ mandolin adds a hip touch to pieces like “Mandolin’ Boogie” and “Got the Train,” but the red meat comes to the plate when Horton’s harmonica snarls and wheezes like an emphysemic lion on “Too Many Bad Habits” the duet with the leader on  “Getting Outa Town” and a trio with Boogie Woogie Red on “ Soon Forgotten.” Shines’ guitar work is laid back porch perfect on “Move On Down the Line” and ”Money, Marbles and Chalk.” There’s a relaxed rapport that is and in glove for the irresistible behind the beat groove, whether it’s implied  on pieces like “Careless Love” tapped out by Gross on “Prisoner Blues” or laid out on the ivories by Red during “Hootie Blues.” This is the real dry rub deal!

Kevin Breit has played his guitar, bass, organ, melodica and bass clarinet on various sessions with artists ranging from Norah Jones, Cassandra Wilson and k.d. lang. What sets this album apart is Breit’s clever use of the bass clarinet to add extra texture to these swampy swinging pieces. Along with Gary Diggins/tp, Davide DiRenzo/dr, Vincent Henry/sax-fl and a few guests, Breit strolls with the horns on the title track and even gives a Nashville twang on “The Knee High Fizzle.” They moody bass clarinet adds a film noir attitude to “The Goldtooth Shuffle” and the rumbling “Zing Song Song” while a dash of Bo Diddley rollicks on “A Horse By Another Stripe” and a hint of Dick Dale goes a long way on “One Mo Bo.” Long shadows get cast here.

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