Down Beat - p.753 stars out of 5
-- "He sings new retro material and old r&b numbers with typical bonhomie..."
Sugar Ray & the Bluetones: Sugar Ray (vocals); Mudcat Ward, Neil Gouvin, Anthony Geraci.
Personnel: Sugar Ray Norcia (vocals, harmonica); Duke Robillard (guitar); Greg Piccolo (tenor saxophone); Bob Enos (trumpet); Carl Querfurth (trombone); Anthony Geraci (piano); Mudcat Ward (acoustic bass); Neil Gouvin (drums).
Additional personnel: Monster Mike Welch (guitar); Doug 'Mr. Low' James (baritone saxophone); Carl Quefurth (trombone); Duke Robillard, Greg Piccolo, Bob Enos, Carl Querfurth.
Audio Mixer: Jack Gauthier.
Liner Note Author: Mudcat Ward.
Recording information: Lakewest Studios, Coventry, RI.
Author: Sugar Ray Norcia.
Sugar Ray Norcia is well respected on the blues circuit for his contributions to electric Chicago blues, but he has had a fondness for jump blues for some time -- and on My Life, My Friends, My Music, the singer/harmonica player pleasantly surprises us by making jump blues and early R&B (of the jazz-influenced, pre-soul, pre-James Brown variety) the main course. Norcia doesn't stay away from Chicago blues altogether on this 60-minute CD; he is in fine form on Big Maceo Merriweather's "Do You Remember?" and Sonny Boy Williamson's "I Don't Know," both of which were written by singers who epitomized blues in the Windy City. Nonetheless, jump blues and early R&B certainly dominate the album. Norcia and his skillful Bluetones open My Life, My Friends, My Music with a passionate, hard-swinging performance of Louis Prima's "Oh, Babe," which sets the tone of the disc -- and Norcia's celebration of jump blues and early R&B continues with inspired originals such as "The Last Words of a Fool," "Shut Your Face," the Charles Brown-ish "Think It Over Again," and the goofy "Little Green Talking Frog." Another memorable, jazz-influenced highlight of My Life, My Friends, My Music is Norcia's version of "Until the Real Thing Comes Along"; the expressive Norcia has no problem giving this well-known standard the type of earnestness it needs, and his obvious awareness of the influence that jazz (especially swing) had on early R&B in the mid- to late '40s and early '50s (just before the dawn of rock & roll) is a definite plus. My Life, My Friends, My Music is an excellent addition to Norcia's catalog and is among his best releases. ~ Alex Henderson