Other than reissues, true gutbucket blues CDs have been a rarity for more than a decade. Enter Exhibit A—Evening. One of the better harp players on the scene today, Sugar Ray Norcia gets a smoky, vintage sound by playing period instruments through tube amps. The sound is enhanced dramatically by Norcia not singing through the studio board, but rather through an amp (likely his harp amp). If one were to compare him to one of the old-school blues legends, Sonny Boy Williamson might well come to mind. His treatment of Otis Rush’s minor-keyed “You Know My Love” and Johnny Young’s hard-driving “I’m Having a Ball” are exemplary. “I Like What You Got” and “Hard to Get Along With” are originals, but very much influenced by Sonny Boy. “(That’s Not Yet) One of My Blues” and “Too Many Rules and Regulations” have modern themes, but the sound is from the Chess studio circa 1955. The title track “Evening,” is especially attractive. Associated with T-Bone Walker,” it’s also in a minor key, but when it switches tempo at the break it is especially riveting. Backing here is superb throughout.
If you like authentic harp-driven blues, this just might be the ticket. Sugar don’t get this sweet for blues lovers.