Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, “Seeing Is Believing” (Severn)

Sugar Ray Norcia has been a fixture on the New England blues scene since the ’70s. This, his seventh album for Severn, measures up well to the previous half-dozen as all the Bluetones are at the top of their game. The opener “Sweet Baby” is what most blues aficionados have come to expect from Sugar Ray. It’s a swinging harp-driven shuffle not outside of Little Walter’s realm of influence. The title track drops the pace as it features Monster Mike Welch playing a T-Bone Walker–influenced minor-keyed guitar figure throughout. “Noontime Bell” swings a-plenty with its chunky rhythm and pseudo-macho lyrics. So too does “Blind Date,” but rhythmically it’s somewhat ungainly and lyrically rather awkward. “You Know I Love You”—dedicated to B.B. King (he wrote it)—is given a new lease on life as an instrumental and features sharp and to-the-point guitar from “The Monster.” The semi-acoustic “Keep On Sailing” sports humorous lyrics somewhat in the tradition of a half-pint–fueled Sonny Boy Williamson. Bassist Mudcat Ward contributes a couple of songs—perhaps the best being the contrite “Misses Blues,” which is accentuated by Sugar Ray on chromatic harp. The changeup in the mix here is the heartfelt “Not Me,” which could actually make one misty-eyed in a moment of weakness. More up the Bluetones’ alley is “Got a Gal,” one of their patented echoey shuffles, built on a foundation of rock-solid 12-bar guitar and topped with a crisp chromatic solo. Not exceedingly adventurous but a reliable blues release that will please most modern blues fans.