Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

SUGAR RAY AND THE BLUETONES FEATURING LITTLE CHARLIE

TOO FAR FROM THE BAR

2020-08-10

On this, their 8th disc for Severn Records, the venerable Sugar Ray and the Bluetones swap out a “Monster” (Monster Mike Welch) for a “Little” (Little Charlie Baty) in the guitar slot. Since both are revered for their six string skills the swap is a more a matter of tone and style than a change in talent level. Monster Mike plays a more forceful harder edged blues while Little Charlie, who sadly passed away after this recording, was more firmly planted in the lighter touch of the jump and swing worlds where he built his reputation fronting Little Charlie and the Nightcats. The rest of the band consisting of Sugar Ray on vocals and harmonica, Anthony Geraci on piano, Michael Mudcat Ward on bass and Neil Gouvin on drums play with the tightness befitting the many years together touring virtually non-stop. Joined by producer Duke Robillard on a number of the cuts, the band works its way through nine originals penned by various members of the band and choice covers by the likes of Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Jerry McCain. "Don’t Give No More Than You Can Take" kicks things off with both Norcia and Baty strutting their way through the solo spotlight over a beach/shag/doo-wop groove. The crew strikes a more traditional blues tone on Sonny Boy’s "Bluebird Blues", Little Walter’s "Can’t Hold Out Much Longer", Otis Spann’s "What Will Become of Me" and Norcia’s "Too Little Too Late". Norcia’s clever title track recalls the upbeat party blues of his time fronting Roomful of Blues with Little Charlie’s smoking guitar work doing the heavy lifting. Jerry McCain’s "My Next Door Neighbor" repeats the feat at lightning speed. Just in case dust was finding its way near his harmonica, Norcia blows it all out on the smoking harmonica fronted instrumental, "Reel Burner". On "Numb and Dumb" Norcia and Baty weave a tangled web of solos while Norcia admits to being under his lady’s thumb even while he watches her exit stage right with another suitor. Ward’s "What I Put You Through" reverses the dynamic temporarily with his pointed insight that his lady at home was the silent victim of his good times out on the town only to find her now returning the favor and having her own good times with him on the sidelines. There’s no hanky panky on Geraci’s" From the Horse's Mouth" where all his lady has to do is walk his way to get him going. Relationship issues take a back seat on Ward’s soon to be classic, mostly spoken word, "The Night I Got Pulled Over" which recounts an encounter with Johnny Law that ends well but adds driving while blue to the list of things for which you can be profiled. Another top-notch entry into this band’s rich catalogue of discs. Smitty

review by Mark

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

The opinions expressed in these reviews are those of the individual volunteers that submitted the article and do not necessarily reflect the views of WYCE or GRCMC; nor its staff, donors, or affiliates.