Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters

Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters
Hope Radio Sessions DVD

Stony Plain Records

By Brian D. Holland
December 2008

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Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters and Stony Plain Records recently released the Hope Radio Sessions on DVD. Recorded at Wellspring Sound in Acton on April 21 and 22, 2007, the studio setting is responsible for an excellent sound quality - an aspect that often suffers in live recordings.

The close and intimate setting provides viewers the ability to feel part of the audience of friends and acquaintances present during the making of the Hope Radio CD, which is one of the Broadcasters best live releases to date.

In setting the ideal atmosphere immediately - ‘hope’ being the theme of the CD and the DVD – the producer gives viewers a quick glance of a baseball jersey hanging upon the wall behind the band. It displays the number 42 and the name [Jackie] Robinson, the former Brooklyn Dodger who became the first African-American to play in the major leagues. An athlete who broke through countless boundaries, the first to be accepted, and become one of the greatest players of all-time, his moral fiber was one that undoubtedly contained a huge amount of ‘hope.’ (This is appropriate for another reason as well, as Ronnie is known to be a huge baseball fan.)

Following a wonderful introduction by friend and admirer Rev. Deborah J Blanchard, who points out the soothing and spiritual aspect of Earl’s talent, he and the Broadcasters perform “Bobby’s Bop.” The progressive blues romp and brisk jazzy melody finds Earl and keyboardist Dave Limina trading solo duties. Pay special attention to Limina, and the manner in which the Berklee alumnus exerts his simultaneous talents on the B-3. One can listen to “Bobby’s Bop” repeatedly, and hear something new from both Earl and Limina each and every time.

Earl then gets deep into slow blues expressionism in “Blues For the Homeless,” in which his communicative licks talk amiably to the audience. The guitarist displays his unique ability to play a slow blues with altruistic licks of hope and harmony, which apply a facet of optimism into the song’s title and subject matter. He then gets the small crowd standing for a vigorous performance of “Eddie’s Gospel Groove.” The song’s Latin feel is augmented by Limina’s organ technique, as both he and Earl bring a Santana element to it, especially early on.

Prior to the band entering an eight-minute blues excursion of multiple elements, the intro is climactic in “I Am With You.”

“Kay My Dear” summons a tender slow blues atmosphere again, a place where Earl is at his best. “New Gospel Tune” takes it in a gospel direction, a blues approach in which he’s quite at home with these days as well, as his spiritual attribute and warm personality shine more than ever in these performances.

That partially describes night one of the recorded performance.

Night two is a continuation of the soothing instrumental blues of Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters, made up of Earl on guitar (Stratocaster, of course,) Limina on organ and piano, Jimmy Mouradian on bass, and Lorne Entress on drums.

The DVD is a desirable companion to the actual Hope Radio CD, primarily because of its additions and bonus features, which include a wonderful acoustic rendition of “I Shall Not Be Moved,” and an intimate interview with the blues guitar master himself, conducted by his friend, Holger Peterson, founder of Stony Plain Records.

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