New releases from a couple of area guitar slingers, each of whom is no stranger to the Rhode Island music scene, let alone New England, are in this week’s Ear Bliss spotlight. Let’s get to it.
Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters
“Just for Today”
Stony Plain Records
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the formation of Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters. The band – Earl on guitar, Lorne Entress on drums, David Limina on piano and Hammond B3 organ Jim Mouradian on bass – celebrate the quarter century of existence in high style with the new live recording "Just for Today." The album brings together a baker’s dozen of live recordings by Earl and band at three Bay State venues, The Regent Theatre in Arlington, The Natick Center for the Arts, and The Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River. Earl has been a mainstay on the New England scene in a variety of configurations from his solo work to his late 1970s stint as a member of Roomful of Blues to sideman work with such revered artists as Otis Rush and Sunnyland Slim. It is with The Broadcasters, however, that he has truly strutted his stuff on the six string. To say Just for Today is smokin’ is putting it lightly. Hitting on all cylinders, Earl and band kick it all off with the big bump of “The Big Train” and then proceed to romp and stomp their way by paying homage to blues greats (original tribute songs to major Earl influences such as Otis Rush, Hubert Sumlin and Robert Nighthawk), delivering a crafty reworking of jazz giant John Coltrane’s “Equinox,” and putting their own stamp on a couple of classics in “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” and “I’d Rather Go Blind” the latter of which features guest vocalist Diane Blue. Across the whole of "Just for Today," Earl with the spot-on backing of his Broadcasters band demonstrates his masterful technique on the guitar, one that is equal parts powerful and soulful. Visit www.ronnieearl.com .
Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters celebrate the release of Just for Today with a show at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, Mass. on Saturday night. Show time is 8 p.m. Call (508) 324-1926 for information.
“New Road Under My Wheels”
Signature Sounds Records
He has been a most prominent sideman scorching the guitar strings for the likes of Jack Smith & the Rockabilly Planet in the 1980s and ‘90s, Boston-based Western swing band The Spurs, and most notably the Eilen Jewel Band where he has been lead guitarist since about 2005. If you’ve seen Jerry Miller play guitar just once with any of those groups, you were not likely to forget it. His prowess on the ax, be it the hot rockabilly licks he delivered with Smith or the twangy ones kicked out for The Spurs and currently with Ms. Jewel’s band, it is oft-times jaw-dropping. It all makes the (overdue) solo debut from Miller titled "New Road Under My Wheels" a most welcomed release. Appropriately, the album begins with a scorching original instrumental that sees Miller pay homage to legendary guitarist Merle Travis. It is one of four original Miller compositions, all instrumentals, which set the record straight on his virtuosity on both the guitar and pedal steel. The remaining eight tracks, nearly all covers of country classics, feature Miller and his band demonstrating big time chops accompanying the guest vocalists on the album which include Jewel, Miss Tess, Boston-based honky tonk singer Roy Sludge, and Eric Royer (who plays with Miller in Eilen Jewell Band gospel offshoot the Sacred Shakers). From a personal perspective, I saw Miller accompany Jack Smith on numerous occasions at Ocean State watering holes throughout the 1990s and the tone and creativity he demonstrated was consistently amazing. It’s all here and then more on this most welcome release. Visit www.signaturesounds.com .
A great double bill happens on Friday night at the Narrows Center for the Arts (16 Anawan St., Fall River, Mass.). Label it an evening of both old style and newfangled country featuring long-time area favorite Big Sandy & his Fly-Rite Boys who have frequented many Rhythm & Roots Festivals along with the Boston-based alt country band Girls Guns & Glory. Show time is 8 p.m.
Consider the Texas-based folk singer/songwriter Eliza Gilkyson as gifted as they come. Simply put, she has written songs that aspiring songwriters would give their eye teeth to have written, among the best are “Beauty Way,” “Nard Times in Babylon,” and “Paradise Hotel.” She brings her mighty bag of songs to Common Fence Point Community Hall in Portsmouth (935 Anthony Road) on Saturday night beginning at 8 p.m.
A new music series begins at The Met Café in Pawtucket (1005 Main St., Pawtucket) on Wednesday, May 15. Titled “Voices Under Cover”, the series will bring together some of the area’s best singer songwriters to honor some of the great singer songwriters of our time performing in an “in-the-round” format with the artists trading songs by the featured songwriter. Round One will honor the late and great Warren Zevon and feature local performers John Fuzek (who will also host), Marc Douglas Berardo, Heather Rose, Kala Farnum and Louis Leeman. Things get going at 8 p.m.
(Dan Ferguson is a freelance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on WRIU-FM 90.3.)