JUST FOR TODAY
Ronnie Earl and The Broadcasters (Stony Plain)
He's a former member of Roomful of Blues guitarist who's toured with Santana. But Ronnie Earl certainly would be a contender if there was an award for Best Blues Guitarist Your Friends Have Probably Never Heard.
On this, his seventh album for Edmonton-based roots music label Stony Plain, Earl, 60, weaves a great mix of blues, gospel, and soul into a heartwarming, gut-wrenching set that's all instrumental save for a rendition of the blues classic, "I'd Rather Go Blind," featuring vocalist Diane Blue near the end.
Earl plays rockabilly, jazz, and jump and the three musicians who tour with him as The Broadcasters — Dave Limina on keyboards, Jim Mouradian on bass and Lorne Entress on drums — are solid. But that's understatement. This 13-track disc features nine originals Earl wrote or co-wrote, as well as tributes to two great bluesmen of the past, Hubert Sumlin and Robert Nighthawk.
Earl's penetrating and moving solos sear your soul and get deep in your bones. Few publicists would dare to note how the artist they're promoting doesn't show up on late night television, play at major events, give many interviews, or seek fame. Except for an upcoming combination of concerts and festivals he plans to play across the East Coast and Canada, Earl is a family man — a country dweller and church-goer — largely content to play in the Boston area.
Trust me on this, though. Many of today's alleged stars on major labels don't have his soloing technique. Or his heart. Or his musical vision. Earl's parting advice on his liner notes: "Always carry hope and an open heart in your life. Don't quit before the miracle happens."
— TOM HENRY
Jake Bugg (Mercury)
With two platinum-selling records and a Grammy Award for album of the year, the fast-rising folk-rock blokes in Mumford & Sons have already entered their inevitable object-of-scorn phase, at least among mouthy young successors such as Jake Bugg. He’s the 19-year-old English singer-songwriter who recently told the Guardian that Marcus Mumford and his mates “look like posh farmers with banjos.”
Bugg’s implicit criticism — that Mumford & Sons come by their rootsy vibe dishonestly — is of course balderdash, to use a term the artisanal folk-rock crowd might appreciate. But that doesn’t make his vinegary attitude any less bracing (or welcome) on this self-titled debut, which did fairly Mumford-like business upon its release in the U.K. last year.
Accompanying himself on guitar, Bugg holds two fingers up to yesterday and moans about being stuck in Speed Bump City in scrappy early-rock ditties as full of Buddy Holly as they are of Bob Dylan. “One Friday night I took a pill or maybe two,” he sings in “Seen It All,” and that’s a good indication of the naughtiness here. Yet Bugg, who’s scheduled to appear at Coachella, softens the misanthropy with a handful of quieter numbers, including the lovely “Simple as This,” in which he says he “memorized the mantra Confucius said / But it only let me down.” His disappointment feels cleansing.
— GLENN GAMBOA, Newsday
Paramore (Fueled by Ramen)
With “Paramore," the Tennessee band’s first since the exit of original members Josh and Zac Farro, front woman Hayley Williams finally seems able to express all sides of her personality.
Though Paramore came up in the Warped Tour trenches with hard-hitting but melodic, indie rock, Williams also had a softer, poppier side. She melds the two on the standout “(One of Those) Crazy Girls,” rocks out totally on the single “Now” and shatters all expectations when she nails an infectious ‘90s party pop vibe on “Ain’t It Fun.”
“Paramore” is packed with one hit after another, ready to launch the band to new superstar heights.