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Ronnie Earl

One of the finest blues guitarists to emerge during the '80s, Ronnie Earl often straddled the line between blues and jazz, throwing in touches of soul and rock as well. His versatility made him one of the few blues guitarists capable of leading an almost entirely instrumental outfit, and his backing band the Broadcasters became one of the more respected working units in contemporary blues over the course of the '90s, following Earl's departure from Roomful of Blues.

Ronnie Earl was born Ronald Horvath in Queens, NY, on March 10, 1953. He didn't start playing guitar until after he entered college at Boston University in the early '70s and became fascinated with the local blues scene. Developing his craft quickly, he landed a job in the house band of the Speakeasy Club in Cambridge, MA, and changed his last name to the bluesier-sounding Earl in tribute to Earl Hooker, one of his favorite influences. Prior to the name switch, he'd made some recordings for the small Baron label under his original moniker beginning in 1977, first backing Guitar Johnny & the Rhythm Rockers, then as a founding member of Sugar Ray & the Bluetones with harmonica player/singer Sugar Ray Norcia. In 1979, Earl was invited to replace Duke Robillard in the prominent Rhode Island band Roomful of Blues, whose swinging jump blues revivalist sound demanded a jazz sensibility as well as ample blues feeling. Earl spent the next eight years with Roomful of Blues and watched their national profile grow steadily larger.

Meanwhile, Earl also made a few recordings on his own for Black Top Records, forming the first versions of the Broadcasters in the early '80s. He released his first solo album, Smokin', in 1983 and followed it with They Call Me Mr. Earl in 1984 (both of those albums were later compiled on the CD Deep Blues). Still, they were a sidelight to his main gig with Roomful of Blues -- that is, until he left the band in 1987 to make a go of it as a solo artist and bandleader in his own right. A new version of the Broadcasters debuted in 1988 on Soul Searchin', which featured vocalist Darrell Nulisch, harmonica player Jerry Portnoy (ex-Muddy Waters), bassist Steve Gomes, and drummer Per Hanson. Peace of Mind followed in 1990, as did I Like It When It Rains, a live album on Antone's that actually dated from 1986. Released in 1991, Surrounded by Love reunited Earl with Sugar Ray Norcia and also proved the last in his long string of Black Top releases.

By the early '90s, Earl had addressed and overcome his problems with alcohol and cocaine and began to rethink his approach. He formed a new version of the Broadcasters, featuring organist Bruce Katz, bassist Rod Carey, and longtime drummer Per Hanson, and boldly elected to go without a vocalist. Earl debuted his new instrumental direction -- which was more informed by jazz than ever before -- on 1993's Still River (released by AudioQuest) and embarked on a tour of Europe. He signed with the Bullseye Blues label and issued a string of acclaimed albums, including 1994's Language of the Soul, 1995's Blues Guitar Virtuoso Live in Europe (a live album from his 1993 tour originally titled Blues and Forgiveness), and 1996's Grateful Heart: Blues and Ballads (which featured David "Fathead" Newman). The latter two were particular critical favorites, with Live in Europe winning Pulse magazine's year-end poll as Best Blues Album and Grateful Heart doing likewise in Down Beat.

Thanks to all the positive attention, Earl signed a major-label deal with Verve. His label debut, The Colour of Love, was issued in 1997 and sold more than 65,000 copies, making it one of the biggest hits of Earl's career; that year, he also won a W.C. Handy Award as Best Blues Instrumentalist. However, feeling that he was under too much pressure to move more units, Earl soured on the deal and around the same time suffered a bout with manic depression. He wound up not only leaving Verve, but taking a break from bandleading and live performance; he disbanded the Broadcasters and signed with the smaller Telarc label as a solo act.

His Telarc debut, 2000's Healing Time, teamed him with legendary soul-jazz organist Jimmy McGriff. The follow-up, 2001's Ronnie Earl and Friends, was a loose, jam session-type of affair featuring a number of special guests, including the Fabulous Thunderbirds' Kim Wilson, Irma Thomas, Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson, and the Band's Levon Helm. In 2003, Earl returned with an album of mainly instrumental material, I Feel Like Goin' On, on the Canadian-based label Stony Plain. A second album from Stony Plain, Now My Soul, appeared in 2004, while a third, The Duke Meets the Earl, which paired Earl with fellow ex-Roomful of Blues guitarist Duke Robillard, was released in 2005. Earl's third album for Stony Plain, 2009's Living in the Light, found him reunited with the Broadcasters. Earl and his longtime backing band returned for 2010's Spread the Love, an instrumental tribute to mentors, friends and family.

After a long period of global touring, Earl and band took well deserved some time off. Just For Today was issued in 2013, and featured guest spots from vocalist Diane Blue and Detroit guitarist Nicholas Tabarias. Earl and the Broadcasters returned to the studio late in the year. They emerged with Good News, a collection of orignals and covers that included Blue and Tabrias in the lineup on select cuts, along with guitarist Zach Zunis. It was issued for release in June of 2014. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

He's one of a kind. Only R.E. can do it like this man
mcd96
This guy is amazing. He is emerging as my favorite artist just by randomly floating up on my playlist on pandora.
james.caslin
Looking forward to the NEW Disc!!! Can't wait,
rock.rottler
We saw Ronnie Earl (with great respect) at Tupelo's in Londonderry, NH and it was a house of soul music. What a time particularly his sweet calming personal play off stage next to very interested guests who witnessed guitar playing up close and personal. I wish I had bought mid-seats on the aisle because it was so great seeing him play. Ronnie is calming in his own special way and reflects that. Can't wait to see him next time.
I've never heard that much of him but this old timer is still rocking
rjstubblefie l d
Smooth, measured, and emotional! I also hope to see him in person
daricee
Ronnie Earl, 2 1st names (smile). Heard him 1st on Pandora while cleaning the house, had to STOP and see who Is THAT????? Now I'd recognize his guitar in my sleep...AND I'd get up to listen.! LOL Hope to one day get to the NE to hear him in person.
Ronnie is in a class by himself. Does it all! Loves what he does and to WHOM he does it! We appreciate the man and his skills. See you in Boston.
Ronnie says if on the nearest possible friday there is a blizzard its ok to get drunk
staticlines5
Simply awesome!
You need to get a life #12
Dont read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest possible friday by the love of Ur life. Tomorrow will be the best day of Ur life. However if u don't post this comment on at least 3 songs u will die in 2 days. Now you've start reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in at least 143 minutes when if done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is scary cuz it actually works.
I saw him last year here in Maine at a local college. He was good but I gotta say I wasn't overly impressed. The Broadcasters were freakin' awesome tho. Ronnie just kinda strolled around with a 50' patch cord and played his guitar. zzzzzzz.... he couldn't seem to find much to say between tunes either. Overall a great show, especially for the backwoods of Maine.
gypsi878
love u ronnie!! hey any of yall try out tom waits? hes different for sure but look up come on up to the house or my fav. cold water, basically anything from the album mule variations is awesome!!!!! ! ! but different its lousianna blues. anyone dig it holla at me.
henry.kaufma n
perfect music to write a paper to...... thats way I'm doing
karin.kenyon
ABSOLUTELY love love love Ronnie Earl!!! Thanks to Pandora AGAIN for introducing me to a freaking fabulous artist!!!!!
larrysmith12 1 2
tthanks for turning me onto this guy!!!!!!!!
ramaporiver4
just unreal !
Must lived the blues to feel like this...Speak to me brother...
messnerv
WOW NEVER HEARD OF HIM I'M ADDICTED!!! AWESOME!
Again...This dude is a master!!!
Dude can Play as good as Gary Moore or maybe better????
Play on,,,,,Lovin ' it! Yowsa, Man!!!!
mldc40
Wow! Why haven't I heard of
this guy? This guy is phenomenal! Just when I thought I'd heard it all...
wow, flipen grat stuff
Ronnie Earl is coming to South Central PA for a free outdoor show on 6 June. I'm goin to be there hours early for a front /center spot.
dconaty
saw him in a small club & the absence of a microphone gave me pause, till this room commanding entertainer roamed the stage & audience with the confidence of a virtuoso. i've seen a lot of shows but i don't think i ever saw anyone speak through their instrument as persuasively as mr earl
I thought the same thing! I had to look to see if it was Stevie!!
Still my favorite blues, guitar player.
lebom1
ooh. good stuff this. sort of like stevie ray vaughn
feels a little like Santana's mellow guitar, I started falling asleep to this one... very smooth and mellow. A+ for relaxation.
welcome to gods music w out this style of blues we wouldnt have rock n roll whole notes from a great bluesman ooooh yeah
Damn that's some smokin' soul in that guitar!
OMG some eles that can make his guitar Talk. just love it thank YOU
Mr. Earl never lets his considerable technique get in the way of the emotional content of his work. His strongest work is yet to come.
yanosky
Surpringly antiquated sound for a contemporary artist, tone from the roots up.
Z1
stevenhogden
This man 's got the blues running through his veins!!!!!
Good "gut bucket" blues; not too shabby for a honkie!

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