Li’l Ronnie and the Bluebeats review…April 19, 2014…

LI’L RONNIE AND THE BLUEBEATS

FEATURING CLAUDIA CARAWAN

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

ELLERSOUL RECORDS  ELL 1404

BRING YOUR FINE SELF HOME–TOO FAST FOR CONDITIONS–GET TOUGH–I FEEL A HEARTACHE COMING ON–JUMP, JIVE, THEN YOU WAIL–UNFINISHED BUSINESS–HARD TIMES–COLD HARD CASH–THICK AND THIN–STOP CHEATIN’ ME BLIND–YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO HOME–THAT’S WHAT A GIRL WANTS TO HEAR–I JUST MET A MAN–I HAD A WARDEN FOR A WOMAN

The Bluebeats were a top-notch blues-roots band in the late-80’s and early 90’s.  Their current album is also their second album, which, unbelieveably, was started in 1991.  They had all the songs written, and, even had eight “in the can” when, as the band puts it, “life just got in the way,”  For various reasons, the album remained incomplete until now.  Leader Li’l Ronnie Owens got everyone back together, and “Unfinished Business” is now complete!  It’s the band’s twelve originals and two covers that were intended for release back in ’91.

The set features the amazing vocal talents of Claudia Carawan, who also plays alto sax.  Her voice is a unique blend of jazz, blues, gospel, and torchy balladry.  She starts the proceedings by testing her upper register in the swingin’  “Bring Your Fine Self Home.’  She plays the “best friend”  as she advises another woman to “Get Tough” in order to keep a lover in line, then goes into that sweet, sultry torch song mode on the lilting “I Feel A Heartache Coming On.”  Jim Wark’s muted guitar speaks volumes as he keeps the passion flowing in this one.

Claudia shows a playful, sassy side, too.   She gives a no-good lover the heave-ho in a cool duet with Ronnie, the stop-time spunk of “You Don’t Have To Go Home but you can’t stay here!”  And, Jim’s mellow tones are in perfect step with Claudia and Ronnie’s vocal, where we learn that “love comes when you least expect it” in “I Just Met A Man.”

Ronnie gets in a couple of good vocal turns, too.  Ericson Holt’s piano drives a Fifties’-styled rocker that has Ronnie beggin’ his lover to come clean and “Stop Cheatin’ Me Blind.”  And, on the other side of the coin, Ronnie believes that love is ok, but that “Cold Hard Cash” is even better, set over a funky, Mardi Gras-ish beat.

We had two favorites, too.  Claudia and Ronnie duet again on the album’s title cut, reminding us fans that even tho it’s been twenty years, it’s never too late to clear up your “Unfinished Business!”  and, the set closes with one of the fiercest rockers Ronnie has ever laid down—the harp-fueled blast o’blues that is “I Had A Warden For A Woman and my home is a penetentiary!”

For an album that literally took two centuries to complete, Li’l Ronnie And The Bluebeats and “Unfinished Business” was well worth the wait.  And, as an added bonus, this set will appeal to a wide base of fans, and especially those, such as us, who have a fondness for that vintage soul, blues and R & B sound that was popularized on Jefferson Street in the Fifties and Sixties right here in Nashville, and still played today by EllerSoul labelmate Marion James.  This one is well-played, indeed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow

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