Various Artists, Ain’t It the Truth!: The Ric & Ron Story, Vol. 2 (Ace Records)

On the heels of You Talk Too Much: The Ric & Ron Story, Vol. 1, follows the similarly entertaining release of Ain’t It The Truth: The Ric & Ron Story Vol. 2.

Fans of New Orleans R&B don’t need to be reminded about the importance of these Joe Ruffino sister (actually brother) labels, so let’s get down to business. As lively as most the music is on this CD, it begins rather B-flatly with Bobby Mitchell’s lugubrious “Send Me Your Picture,” one of those slightly out-of-tune B-flat New Orleans ballads popularized in the ’50s by Mitchell, Sugar Boy and Shirley & Lee. (In Shirley & Lee’s case, though, it was well, well beyond slightly.)

One of the mainstays of Ric, Johnny Adams picks up the pace with the sanctified, Chris Kenner-penned “Life Is Just a Struggle.” Adams is well represented here with four other tracks, the best being the riveting “Losing Battle,” one of the better performances of his lengthy career.

After being relegated to the B-team on Vol. 1, Tommy Ridgley has three inclusions here and they are all corkers—the man never made a bad record for Ric.

The pleading “Should I Ever Love Again” is brilliant. “In the Same Old Way” is a New Orleans stroll record like no other. At the time of its release, the popish “Honest I Do” pointed the way for Ric and Ron’s future, but Ruffino died before that could happen.

Eddie Bo is also well represented with three outstanding tracks, including “Check Mr. Popeye”—New Orleans dance answer to the Twist—and the title track, complimented by Martha Carter’s backup vocal. Carter, nee Nelson, also is in the mix with three numbers, including the knock-out “You Can If You Think Can” and the smart “I Don’t Talk too Much.”

Joe Louis, Lenny Capello, Warren Lee and Jimmy “Skip” Easterling also contribute top-notch tracks but Easterling’s “I Guess I Always Will” is especially interesting, as it has more of a Nashville flavor than, say, one recorded on Gov. Nichols Street.

There’s also a few semi-unreleased tracks here, including a couple of interesting, raw acoustic Barbara Lynn demos (surely recorded in Texas) and a rough—and-rousing audition of Al Johnson pitching “Carnival Time.” As we’ve come to expect, superior sound and packaging from Ace, although more than once, the liner notes are rather cavalier with their facts.

Still, any fan of classic New Orleans R&B will dig on this CD for a long, long time. Dare we hope for a Vol. 3?