Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters / Ronnie Earl

Good News

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Good News, Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters' sixth album for Stony Plain, follows the widely celebrated Just for Today. That set featured guest contributions from vocalist Diane Blue and Detroit guitarist Nicholas Tabarias. Both return here, along with special guest guitarist Zach Zunis, on loan from Janiva Magness' band. Six of these ten tunes were written or co-written by Earl. The guitarist has a thing for trains lately: Just for Today opened with the burner "The Big Train," while here, the kickoff is a total revisioning of "Mystery Train," entitled "I Met Her on That Train," an instrumental where Zunis, Tabarias, and Earl (in that order) improvise in a cutting contest on the choogling vamp. The first of Blue's four vocal appearances is on Sam Cooke's classic "Change Is Gonna Come." Though it's a standard, it's difficult to pull off convincingly. She does, and Earl's guitar fills tag the ends of her lines with empathy, underscoring the hope and faith in her delivery, reminding listeners that Cooke's melody is rooted in the blues. The bandmembers dig deep into their trick bag and come out with a shimmering reading of Neal Creque's "Time to Remember," with Dave Limina offering stellar performances on acoustic piano and B-3. This is the jazzier side of the Broadcasters, slowly unwinding the melody, finding its Spanish tinge and grooving on its harmonic line. The hinge piece is a nearly 11-minute reading of Buddy Guy's "In the Wee Hours." Blue's vocal is excellent, but given the tune's length it's clearly a dialogue for Earl and Zunis, with Limina piano's beautifully coloring the proceedings with gorgeous fills and accents. It will more than likely make guitar fans roar with approval. The deep, undulating, minor-key "Marje's Melody" hosts lyrical interplay between Tabarias and Earl. "Blues for Henry" and "Puddin' Pie" are pure Chicago workouts that reveal the depth of the dialogue between Earl and Limina, who both deliver scintillating solos, while bassist Jim Mouradian and drummer Lorne Entress are unshakable. "Runnin' in Peace" features Blue delivering a prayerful gospel moan as Earl stings and slashes through the pain intimated in the grain of her voice. Good News is yet another excellent entry in the catalog of a band that, as time goes on, becomes a legend unto itself.

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