Sugar Blue review..April 29, 2016…





If you are familiar with this Blog at all, you know that Sugar Blue—born James Whiting and raised in Harlem–blows that killer harp riff that rocks the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” and also appears on “Emotional Rescue” and “Tattoo You.”  We really love his blues and jazz works, and he’s just released his latest set for MC Records, “Voyage.”  It’s his first set in some five years, with eleven originals written either solely or in part by Sugar.

He’s got serious harp chops, and his influences run thru all the blues greats, but, for us, what makes him so unique is his ability to incorporate the jazz styles of the likes of Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, and Brother Ray in his music.  That breezy, jazzy feel sets the tone on the leadoff  “On My Way (Sarah’s Song),” with its powerful message of love and learning that “life is a journey, not a race,” and is meant to be savored.  His passion for the lovely Ilaria Lantieri, who adds bass on several cuts, and their young son continues that trend with “Love Is Everywhere,” with Rico McFarland’s guitar riding sort of a modified reggae beat.  The subject of spiritual rebirth is the theme of the gospel-infused “12 Steps to the future.”

Blue pays tribute to his homeland with a spirited acoustic, country-blues entitled “New York City,’ where he recounts clubs such as The Bottom Line, and meeting Victoria Spivey, Muddy, and Memphis Slim, who “gave me the chance to play in France,” and, subsequently, team up with the Stones.

We had several favorites.  Blue takes a good-natured stab at being an “analog man in a digital age,” his harp blasting all over the fun of “Cyber Blues.”  “Sugar Blue Boogie” is a jaw-breaking, mile-a-minute, how-the-heck-does-he-DO-that instrumental, while sax great Eddie Shaw guests on a cool stop-time tune about a love affair that “Benz” and finally breaks, “Mercedes Blues.”

Blue’s socially-conscious side shows up in the form of “Life On The Run.”  With the help of Maya Azucena and Sonix The Mad Scientist, they duet on the sad state of the world today, where vigilante justice seems to be the norm, while real justice is denied.

Sugar Blue is an artist with a lot to say, and a lot to be thankful for.  His most powerful communication tool is thru his music, and his latest is a mighty sweet blues “Voyage,” indeed!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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