Sugar Ray Norcia review…10-21-11

SUGAR RAY NORCIA AND THE BLUETONES

EVENING

SEVERN RECORDS 0052

I’M HAVING A BALL–HARD TO GET ALONG WITH–YOU KNOW MY LOVE–DEAR JOHN–I LIKE WHAT YOU GOT–TOO MANY RULES AND REGULATIONS–DANCING BEAR (LITTLE INDIAN BOY)–EVENING–I CAME DOWN WITH THE BLUES–(THAT’S NOT YET) ONE OF MY BLUES–I’M CERTAIN THAT I’M HURTING–XO

 

Sugar Ray Norcia was born in Connecticut, and gained inspiration from his father, who had an operatic voice and a penchant for playing the harp.  Ray absorbed plenty during his formative years, and started his first incarnation of the Bluetones in 1979, with Ronnie Earl on guitar.  Since that time, he’s been a member of Roomful Of Blues, and backed legends such as Big Joe Turner, Pinetop, and Big Walter.  With his fifth CD for Severn, “Evening,” Ray makes a triumphant return to his roots.  With twelve cuts that range in styles from jumpin’ floor-burners to sweet, slow, and sassy swingers, Ray uses his two most powerful weapons–his dynamite voice and that fat-toned harp–to get a good-time message across to listeners.

 

This set also brings guitarist “Monster” Mike Welch back into the fold, joining Neil Gouvin on drums, Mudcat Ward on bass, and Anthony Geraci on keys, to make this a powerhouse set of pure, Chicago-style combo blues.

 

Ray’s vocals can be compared to the great blues shouters of yesteryear, such as Louis Jordan, Louis Prima, and Wynonie Harris.  Check out the leadoff rocker, “I’m Having A Ball” and “I Like What You Got” for great examples of this.  The title cut is a deep, slow blues, heavy on the harp and piano, that tells the tale of  “every Evening reminds me that you’re gone.”  An interesting flute intro opens the loping stride of “Dancing Bear (Little Indian Boy),” while Ray closes the set with a sweet, “After Hours-ish” instrumental, “XO.”

 

We had two favorites, too.  “Dear John” has a cool Jimmy Reed-type swing, and “Too Many Rules And Regulations” finds Ray in spoken-word mode over a muted backbeat, pontificating the perils of such evils as swine flu, drinking, and cheeseburgers, to name a few!

 

Sugar Ray Norcia is still going strong into his fifth decade of bringing the best in blues to his fans.  “Evening” is of his strongest sets to date, and we give it two big thumbs up!!   Until next time….Sheryl and Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society.

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