New England blues guitarist Ronnie Earl has spent his recording career, which began in 1979 when he replaced Duke Robillard in Roomful of Blues, flirting with his own hybrid brand of blues/jazz/R&B, and his elegant solos on guitar always seem on the edge of breaking out into a whole new category, although they never quite do, and he remains an excellent guitar player who suggests possibilities more than he actually reaches them. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as this collection of tracks drawn from his solo work at the Black Top, Bullseye, Telarc, and Stony Plain labels clearly shows. Spanning 1983 to 2005, The Best of Ronnie Earl brims with joyful guitar leads that remind us that the blues is really more about freedom, deliverance, and breaking loose from problems of constraint than it is about moaning and groaning and waking up in the morning with trouble in mind. Among the highlights are the wonderfully ragged and dirty "Ronnie Johnnie," which features Kim Wilson on harmonica, an insistent instrumental version of "Catfish Blues," and a fiery guitar duet with Duke Robillard, "What Have I Done Wrong." At just over 70 minutes in length, this generous collection makes a nice introduction to the post-Roomful of Blues career of an intriguing guitarist who just might break free into a whole new space one of these times out.
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett