Artist: Sugar Ray and the Bluetones
Album: Seeing Is Believing
Label: Severn Records
Release Date: 10/07/2016
Sugar Ray and the Bluetones are on a roll, 35 years on. Their 2014 album, Living Tear to Tear, earned them a staggering seven Blues Music Award nominations, including “Best Band.” Last year keyboardist Anthony Geraci’s album, Fifty Shades of Blue, which featured many of the Bluetones, earned three additional nominations, not to mention Blues Blast Award nominations too. All of those accolades are documented facts, but I’ve witnessed much of this elevated status first-hand. I recall guitarist “Monster” Mike Welch commenting to me that he felt the band did a great job of replicating their live sound on Living Tear to Tear, when I interviewed him for our feature on New England Blues. Since, I’ve seen these musicians perform consecutive years at the Pennsylvania Blues Festival, and can assuredly say they are playing with much more flair and stage presence than I recall from four or five years ago. They’re having more fun too.
“We’re almost telepathic in the way we work together,” says Sugar Ray Norcia. Commenting on his bandmates, Norcia says, “they, like all of us, want to play this music right to pay homage to it.” Produced by the band, and with songwriting contributions from each member, they lay down 11 originals and Welch’s live show staple, B.B. King’s “You Know I Love You.” Along the way, their stylistic range nods to Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, Little Walter, Louis Jordan and even Louis Armstrong. The Mississippi blues opener, “Sweet Baby,” is a world apart from the late night lounge vibe of “Not Me,” but Norcia has that kind of range, from blues growls to crooning. Jazz blues emerges in “Misses Blues,” and “Blind Date” is a furiously paced cut, which has quickly become a band favorite.
Can you think of many bands, or any band for that matter, where each member was nominated for a Blues Music Award? Here, Norcia, Welch, Geraci, bassist Mudcat Ward and drummer Neil Gouvin each received a nomination. They are as tight as it gets. Listen to this band in their absolute prime, and enjoy.