Artist: Anthony Geraci
Album: Fifty Shades of Blue
Label: Delta Groove
Release Date: 10/16/2015
The Boston area is home to some of the best blues keyboardists, including the late David Maxwell, Dave Limina (Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters), and Anthony Geraci (Sugar Ray and the Bluetones), who makes his debut here as leader for the Boston Blues All-Stars. Geraci is not only a blues piano master, he is a gifted composer too. Look no further than his title, and arguably best, track on the most recent widely acclaimed BlueTones release, Living Tear to Tear. Building on that momentum, Geraci gathered his bandmates and top notch vocalists Toni Lynn Washington, Darrell Nulisch and Michelle “Evil Gal” Willson for these sessions that feature 13 Geraci originals, ranging from stomp to swing, with torchy ballads and even a touch of world music on the closing tribute to David Maxwell. As the title indicates, there are at least 50 shades of the blues in these recordings.
Geraci and most of the accompanying musicians have distinguished pedigrees partnering with and backing the likes of Muddy Waters, Big Joe Turner, James Cotton, Otis Rush, Big Mama Thornton, Hubert Sumlin, and in Geraci’s case, Jimmy Rogers. That’s only a glimpse of their respective lineages. Geraci is a founding member of both Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters and Sugar Ray and Bluetones, which he has played with for the past 35 years.
Sugar Ray Norcia sings on six tracks, most splendidly on the crooners “Don’t Keep Me Waiting” and “Your Turn to Cry.” Norcia adds his harmonica to three tracks and blows the Native American flute on the gorgeous, mournful instrumental “Blues for David Maxwell.” Darrell Nulisch is the vocalist on three tunes, including the slow burner, “Cry a Million Tears,” perhaps the album’s strongest cut. Michelle “Evil Gal” Willson renders “If You Want to Get to Heaven” in her signature sassy style. Geraci’s piano playing sparkles here and throughout the record. Monster Mike Welch is strong and steady on guitar, providing intrusive solos only when called upon. These are top notch blues players bringing their A game.
As Geraci says, “Music is just something I was born with. It is something that is just inside me.” He builds on his deep experience as a sideman to flawlessly assume the leadership role. Blues is seldom purer than it is here.
– Jim Hynes