The continuing musical saga of bluesman Ronnie Earl ventures further into jazz territory with this, his first release on the Verve imprint. As always, Earl is ably and tightly backed by the Broadcasters, featuring solid and empathetic playing from drummer Per Hanson, bassist Rod Carey, and keyboardist and co-collaborator Bruce Katz. It's Katz's "Hippology" that opens the album with a swinging bang, sporting guest appearances on alto sax from Hank Crawford and Allman Brothers alumni Jaimoe on drums. Crawford also shows up again on "Anne's Dream," while Jaimoe joins Marc Quinones for a two-drummer rhythm section guest turn on "Bonnie's Theme" and "Mother Angel." Gregg Allman plays Hammond B-3 organ and contributes the album's only vocal on "Everyday Kinda Man." But guest stars aside, this is clearly Ronnie Earl's show to direct, and his playing, as always, sports exquisite taste, economy, and tone for days. His nine-plus-minute soliloquy on Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight" (the only cover on this album) blasts the venerable jazz standard into new territory as Earl's passages take on almost trumpet-like tonalities, while his "I Like That Thing You Did" (dedicated to Jimmie Vaughan) creates an organ-like sound with tons of ultra-shimmering Leslie vibrato. Since adopting an all-instrumental format several albums back, Earl's music has blossomed in a multitude of directions, embracing jazz, soul, and the rockier aspects of guitarists like Carlos Santana (the title track) and Peter Green ("Heart of Glass"), and bringing new life to the organ jazz combo format ("Deep Pockets") while remaining true to his deep blues roots, like in his closing tribute to Albert Collins, "O'Yeah." This release pushes the envelope even further and breaks new ground, wrapped in the velvet glove of Tom Dowd's production.
AllMusic Review by Cub Koda