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A Rare Look At Ronnie Earl
on November 14, 2008
This is Ronnie Earl's first DVD. He is a fantastic example of post-modern Blues Guitar. His playing is understated and soulful but his phrasing is really exemplary. I have been playing this DVD for about two weeks to write a review of it and I must say that is really grows on you. Ronnie decided that, in the early 1990s, he would stop playing with a singer and play the blues in the true Earl Hooker style-where he got his name "Earl" from. As a guitar player I feel that this was a bold move. The instrumental selection on this DVD is mostly slow blues with some pop, jazz and gospel overtones, but if you are a player it is fantastic. You can clearly see Ronnie's technique and easily even see what key it's in (D,G,B A mostly)
If you are a Blues fan you may be put off a bit by Ronnie's laid back style and the interview at the end. I would assume that anyone who buys this DVD knows about Earl, his history, medical problems and background. However, most people should not be disappointed. Ronnie plays straight ahead blues and it sounds great in 5.1 sound! Material on him is so scarce, this is a treat to have in one's collection. This DVD will also supplement the "Hot Licks" DVD of a few years ago and you can even easily play along with this DVD.
This set list is interesting and mostly slow blues. If you are a player you know that slow blues is the hardest to play and the best indication of a player's ability. Earl does a few different slow tunes in this set and lives up to his image as a great blues guitarist. The two best tunes to me are "Bobby's Bop" with its great 13th and 9th Jazz chords, solos and groove. "Blues For Otis Rush" is really good and we can see Earl injecting Rush's licks with his own interpretations. Well done! This is the top tune in the set.
The bonus features include Earl doing two acoustic numbers and discussing his life and problems with the head of his record company. Very brave and honest. This DVD is a must have for blues fans and those who play electric blues guitar. If you don't know Ronnie Earl keep in mind that this is an instrumental set with no vocals, but the music is superb. It is good that we have a document of a modern blues legend that has not been on the scene for a number years. This set is very well produced and the sound is excellent.