Brooks is the son of Chicago blues legend Lonnie Brooks, but first impressions can be deceiving. Although the son certainly pays more than a passing nod to his father's blues legacy on his third solo album, Ronnie actually exhibits an eclectic approach that takes in everything from the Stax/Volt soul classics of the mid-'60s to Van Halen to archetypal Chuck Berry guitar licks. It's an exhilarating combination. That's not to say that the classic blues elements are lacking. The incendiary opener, "Born in Chicago," is pure Buddy Guy-style blistering electric Chicago blues, while "It's All About You" employs a menacing guitar line that has been a part of the music's foundation since Charley Patton and Son House emerged from the Delta bottoms. He's a very fine blues guitarist. But he also proves himself to be a classic soul singer in the pleading Otis Redding vein on "Be a Good Man" (and adds some letter-perfect Steve Cropper guitar fills as well). "Half" finds him in James Brown funk mode, shouting the chorus amid strutting Memphis soul horns. And "Can't You See" rocks along just splendidly behind a slightly modified version of Chuck Berry's hoary "Sweet Little Sixteen." There are a couple missteps. "If It Don't Make Dollars, It Don't Make Sense" traffics in tired clichés and an easily recognized Eddie Van Halen guitar riff before it inexplicably careens into a strident sermon from Memphis rapper Al Kapone. And "The Torch of the Blues" is a ludicrously self-congratulatory ditty in which blues oldsters like Jimmy Johnson, Eddy Clearwater, and papa Lonnie pass on the torch to, you guessed it, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Keeper of the Blues Flame. He's not that. But he is a better than average soul singer, a fine blues interpreter, and a monster guitarist with an ample supply of technique and passion. That's the kind of tradition that is always welcome and in short supply, and it's a torch worth carrying proudly.
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