Living Blues - p.45
"Norcia's chromatic harmonica and Geraci's organ evoke a particularly noirish quality in their ode to the EVENING on the title track."
Personnel: Sugar Ray Norcia (vocals, Native American flute, harmonica); Monster Mike Welch (guitar, background vocals); Anthony Geraci (piano); Michael Ward (acoustic bass, electric bass); Neil Gouvin (drums).
Audio Mixer: David Earl.
Liner Note Author: Craig Rusky.
Recording information: Severn Studios, Severn, MD.
Photographer: Sam Holden.
Singer/songwriter/harmonica player Ray Norcia may be a New Englander, born in Connecticut and resident of Rhode Island, but on Evening, the fifth album for Severn Records by his band Sugar Ray & the Bluetones, this Roomful of Blues alumnus sounds more like a Mississippi expatriate living on Chicago's South Side. He and his bandmates -- "Monster" Mike Welch on guitar, Neil Gouvin on drums, Michael "Mudcat" Ward on bass, and Anthony Geraci on piano -- also make music suggesting that the era is the late '40s or early '50s instead of 2011. The title track, perhaps better known with a dropped "g" as "Evenin'," is a 1934 copyright introduced by Cab Calloway and popularized in the '40s by Count Basie with Jimmy Rushing on vocals; "You Know My Love" was written by Chess Records' Willie Dixon and recorded by Otis Rush; and the leadoff track is Johnny Young's "I'm Having a Ball." The rest of the songs are newly written by Norcia or members of the Bluetones ("Hard to Get Along With" is by Welch, "[That's Not Yet] One of My Blues" by Ward), but they might just as well be of the vintage of the covers. Norcia has two different vocal styles. He adopts a hoarse, gruff tone for the more raucous numbers like "I'm Having a Ball" and "I Came Down with the Blues," but he has more of a smooth croon for "You Know My Love" and other ballads. The blues styles vary from slow tunes like the politically -- or at least medically -- incorrect "Too Many Rules and Regulations," in which Norcia rejects modern notions of healthy living, to the R&B/jump blues styles of "I'm Certain That I'm Hurting" and "Dancing Bear (Little Indian Boy)," which surprisingly begins with a Native American flute passage played by the bandleader. Thus, there are a few unusual touches in the lyrics and music here and there, but for the most part this is contemporary blues with a traditional cast from some accomplished veterans. ~ William Ruhlmann