Ronnie Earl's Maxwell Street is named in honour of blues pianist and previous member of the Broadcasters David Maxwell and is a nod to Chicago's Maxwell Street where blues musicians gathered to play outside for the Sunday market crowds. It confirms Ronnie Earl's status as one of the most soulful blues/soul/jazz guitarists working today. Earl is a three-time Blues Award winner as Guitarist Of The Year working with his band of over 25 years. This album is dedicated to my big brother David Maxwell. We were born on the same day ten years apart. His playing was a deep as the ocean, as high as the sky and as bright as a quasar. When he passed I felt a huge loss as I still do. David was a Broadcaster and he and I made a few records together…
Over the past decade, Ronnie Earl has emerged as one of the preeminent blues guitarists in the world; he never overplays or grandstands, and each note delivers maximum emotional punch. This version of the ….
One of the finest new blues guitarists to emerge during the '80s, Ronnie Earl often straddled the line between blues and jazz, throwing in touches of soul and rock as well. His versatility made him one of the few blues guitarists capable of leading an almost entirely instrumental outfit and his backing band the Broadcasters became one of the more respected working units in contemporary blues over the course of the '90s, following Earl's departure from Roomful of Blues.
The title of the CD has special significance to Ronnie, who found healing with his father, Jerry Akos Horvath, on Father’s Day of last year. Jerry was a Holocaust survivor, as was his mother Rose, and was liberated from Auschwitz in 1945. Both of Ronnie’s parents died in 2014. Ronnie made peace with his father after having had a rocky relationship, which had both its ups and downs, joys and struggles.
This particular version of the Broadcasters was unarguably magical, and this recording reveals why. Recorded four years after Earl dealt with his demons (alcohol, drugs, nervous collapse), it is the first of a string of all-instrumental albums by Earl, and it drips with class and soul. It's not just the exceptional skill of the players, however, that makes it so special; it was recorded on one of a handful of audiophile labels (AudioQuest), and therefore features state-of-the-art production. From the ringing opening chords of Magic Sam's "Blues for the West Side" to the beautiful acoustic guitar/piano duet of "Derek's Peace," Still River is thoroughly enjoyable. "Kansas City Monarch" is slow and sweet, featuring Bruce Katz tearing up the low notes, a nice sax solo by Anders Gaardmand, and some great double-string work by Earl. There is a moody version of John Coltrane's "Equinox" and a bog-dwelling rouser written by the entire band called "Chili Ba Hugh." You'll also like the greasy Hammond B3 organ on "Soul Serenade".
Although not released until 1995, this CD was recorded live in 1993 in Bremen, Germany. Live in Europe is Earl's tribute to his major influences, and Ronnie plays his favorite guitar throughout: a 1962 red Strat. The fast, driving "San-Ho-Zay" and "Blues for the West Side" go out to Magic Sam; "The Stumble" to Freddie King; "Thank You Mr. T-Bone" to T-Bone Walker and Duke Robillard (who inspired Earl to learn T-Bone). "Thank You Mr. T-Bone" features some cool call-and-response between Earl and Bruce Katz on the Hammond B-3. It segues nicely into "Akos," where you'll find more great B-3 (check out the improvised "Summertime" riff). An all-instrumental offering, Live in Europe includes a handful of tunes found on its predecessor, Still River, including "Szeren," "Rego Park Blues," and the aforementioned "Blues for the West Side." "Contrition," a slow, soulful tune penned by Katz, has some jaw-dropping runs by Earl. One can only imagine what it must have been like to be one of the lucky souls at this show.
Now in his 60th year, 35 of which he's spent playing and recording professionally, soulful blues guitarist Ronnie Earl has released a mostly instrumental album, Just for Today, on Stony Plain Records, recorded with his band of over 25 years, the Broadcasters, live in 2012 at the Massachusetts-based Regent Theatre, the Center for Arts in Natick, and the Narrows Center for the Arts. ~ Steve Leggett, Allmusic