Ronnie Baker Brooks

Ronnie Baker Brooks
The Torch

Watchdog Records

By Art Tipaldi
April 2007

Most agree that Ronnie Baker Brooks, son of blues great Lonnie Brooks, is one of the hottest stars on the blues circuit. His explosive guitar finds ways to rocket the simple progression first to a contemporary level, and then into blues “Strat-o-sphere.”

This year, Brooks is nominated for a Blues Music Award as Contemporary Blues Artist of the Year. A typical Brooks show or recording includes bits of Muddy Waters, Albert King, T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker, and Albert Collins, mixed generously with blues rockers like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and simmered with his dad’s lessons of showmanship.

Aptly titled The Torch, this record is a glowing show by one of the rising new stars in the blues who is carryin’ the torch. In that way, “The Torch Of The Blues,” is the standout cut here. Just look at the back cover picture - where he and his dad are holding the same guitar -and you can see this is one proud father.

Ronnie’s Chicago blues party features the seasoned vocals of his mentors: dad- Lonnie, Jimmy Johnson, Eddy Clearwater, and the late Willie Kent. Each takes a vocal turn rappin’ about every blues singer’s having to find his own way.

Knowing Ronnie as I do, I know this special moment meant a lot. You can hear it in his exuberant playing. He and his dad also trade licks and words on the modernistic “It’s All About You,” a murky and distorted bit of contemporary street philosophy wrapped in a father-son guitar battle.

From the opening cut, Brooks tells the listener we are in for a night of some of the finest blues and blues-rock you’ve heard in a long time.

Led by a massive John Lee Hooker string attack, “Born In Chicago,” outlines Brooks’ genetic blues lines. Remember that by age six, he had been a careful watcher of his father. As Brooks fires off dive-bomber guitar runs, it’s not hard to picture him thrusting his right hand to the sky as he psyches up his crowd.

The follow-up, “You Free For Me,” is centered around Brooks’ otherworldly blues rock. Brooks’ other musical spirits include the great Albert Collins, who he honors on the shivery “Half,” a modern tale about parental custody

Because Brooks’ longtime friend and co-producer, Jellybean Johnson, is a friend to the legendary Prince, Brooks has been able to hang with those Minneapolis musicians.

“You Were Wrong For That,” showcases Brooks’ softer, R&B stylings. Another tune, “Other Side Of Love,” also hits R&B pay dirt. Growing up when he did in the 1970s, Brooks also heard a lot of funk and soul. That’s the musical combination he plugs together on “It’s On.”

His Memphis soul light shins on “A Good Man.” Here, Jim Spake’s smart tenor solo mixes with Brooks’ poised vocal pleadings. This is as good as modern soul gets.

Brooks isn’t afraid to bring in Memphis rapper Al Kapone to rap the bridge on Brooks’ funky, “If It Don’t Make Dollars, Then It Don’t Make Sense.”

Brooks’ blues are not from the “Antique Blues Museum.” He’s not your standard 1-4-5-progression musician, yet blues is always the foundation. This is the deep-seated commitment of an artist ready to take art to the next level with heart and soul.

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