Roadhouse album review: Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters deliver eloquent “Mercy Me”

Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters — “Mercy Me” — Stony Plain Records

On his 28th album in his 45-year career, Ronnie Earl shows that his impeccable guitar talents only seem to have gotten better.

Earl’s touch and tone are minimalist but eloquent, each note virtually its own musical statement, combining for a magical depth of feeling and soulfulness

Earl also makes creative use of instrumentals — there are seven here. You don’t usually find that many on a single album, and you especially don’t find many as elegant as the second track, “Alabama,” Earl’s cover of and tribute to the legendary saxophonist/composer, John Coltrane.

The album opener, “Blow Wind Blow,” is exactly the opposite — a bluesy, rousing version of the Muddy Waters song, featuring the Broadcasters’ fine vocalist, Diane Blue. That’s the kind of mood shift that the Broadcasters handle with ease. The band sounds equally at home in a tough blues cover or a stylish interpretation of a great jazz tune.

There are also a couple more “tribute” songs, both instrumental originals by Earl: “Blues for Duke Robillard” and the acoustic departure of “Blues for Ruthie Foster,” a guitar duet with guest Peter Ward. Both are overflowing with Earl’s liquid guitar, taking its time to make certain that every note is the only one to express that feeling.

Another great cover is a beautifully extended 11-minute version of Percy Mayfield’s classic “Please Send Me Someone to Love,” with a sweet-toned guitar counterpoint for Diane Blue’s sultry vocals, and some tasty guitar, sax and B3 solos loitering in the background. It’s gorgeous.

“Coal Train Blues” is fine little blues instrumental; a Ronnie Earl master class in tasteful, understated blues that manages to speak volumes more than the sum of its notes, and shifts into an even lower, gear about halfway through.

Another favorite is “Only You Know and I Know,” the Dave Mason song that became a rocking staple for Delanie and Bonnie, again with Diane Blue bringing it home.

The album was titled “Mercy Me” “as I was thinking about all the things going on in the world,” Earl says about his inspiration. “We need to have more mercy for the world, for other people and for ourselves. I love playing the blues, and the session was so enjoyable. The band was focused, and we came together as one.” And Earl produced the effort himself.

So, mercy me, there’s a lot of excellent music here to absorb and enjoy.


Historical Note: The band was named after one of the first Fender guitars, distributed in 1950, which originally had been labeled The Broadcaster. The first group of Broadcasters included Darrell Nulisch (vocalist), Jerry Portnoy (harmonica), Steve Gomes (bass), and Per Hanson (drums).

Here’s some more music from the album:

Tracklist:

1. Blow Wind Blow, McKinley Morganfield, Diane Blue vocal 6:57
2. Alabama ,John Coltrane 5:08
3. Blues for Ruthie Foster, Ronnie Earl 5.23
4. Soul Searching Ronnie Earl, Kaz Kazanoff 4:35
5. Blues for Duke Robillard, Ronnie Earl 7:41
6. Only You Know and I Know, Dave Mason, Diane Blue vocal 7:03
7. A Prayer for Tomorrow, Anthony Geraci, Ronnie Earl 6:00
8. Dave’s Groove, Ronnie Earl, Dave Limina, Forrest Padgett 6:51
9. Please Send Me Someone to Love, Percy Mayfield, Diane Blue vocal 10:46
10. Coal Train Blues, Ronnie Earl 5:02
11. The Sun Shines Brightly, Ronnie Earl & Diane Blue, Diane Blue vocal 8:33
12. (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher, Carl Smith, Gary Jackson; Diane Blue vocal 5:55

Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters

Ronnie Earl – Guitar, Dave Limina – Piano and Hammond B3, Diane Blue – Vocals, Forrest Padgett – Drums, Paul Kochanski – Electric and Upright Bass 

Guest Musicians

Anthony Geraci – Piano 
Mark Earley – Baritone Sax 
Mario Perrett – Tenor Sax
Peter Ward, Guitar 
Tess Ferraiolo – Vocals

Anthony Geraci  1, 7, 10, 11 
Peter Ward  1, 3, 7, 10, 11 
Mario Perrett   2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12   
Mark Earley  2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12
Tess Ferraiolo  12
Paul Kochanski vocals and bass on 6

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