My Life, My Friends, My Music, Sugar Ray’s fourth release on Severn Records, is a mix of jump and Chicago blues all laced with Sugar Ray’s warm voice and harmonica. In addition to classics by Louie Prima, Sonny Boy Williamson and Dave Bartholomew, Sugar and friends create seven new originals. The album includes several guest appearances including Duke Robillard, “Monster” Mike Welch who split the guitar duties, Greg Piccolo on tenor, Doug “Mr. Low” James on baritone, Carl Querfurth on trombone and Bob Enos on trumpet.
Check out Sugar Ray & the Bluetones other Severn titles: Rockin’ Sugar Daddy; Sugar Ray & the Bluetones Featuring Monster Mike Welch; Hands Across the Table; Evening; and Living Tear To Tear.
There we were, one month after recording the CD you hold in your hand, in Sugar Ray’s yard at Christmas time. “The entire fleet is down,” stated Sugar Ray in that deeply resonant, familiar voice with which he also sings. This was not good news. All the vehicles were currently nonfunctioning. The storied Dodge van, used tirelessly to transport the band to a many a gig since the turn of the century, sat motionless between two tall pine trees. Under another tree, the usually trusty pickup truck having just been retrieved from the repair facility the day before, still refused to start despite all the new parts and assurances and over seven hundred hard-earned dollars having changed hands. The third strike, so to speak, was the khaki painted, World War II vintage, General Patton type Jeep, still in need of a major overhaul. Though it might be cajoled to run, it was neither registered nor inspected. Taking that roofless, windowless old timer out on the roads might create a legal maelstrom no one with any sanity left would court. And in keeping with the adage “when it rains it pours,” the twenty some odd year old Volvo wagon belonging to Sugar’s wife Patty had sprung a major fuel leak the previous evening. Forced to abandon it in Hope Valley, she called on her kind neighbor (known as “Neighbor” aka Dominique) for a rescue ride home. Sugar Ray was right, the fleet was down.
Needless to say, we weren’t going anywhere. So what was the problem? The coolers were loaded with bottles of the locally brewed Cotrell and we had plenty of ice and plenty of wine. The provisions for the highly anticipated family Christmas dinner were here too, awaiting Patty’s expert preparation. And best of all, we had a copy of the rough mixes of this latest Sugar Ray & the Blutones recording, featuring some of the best musicians on the planet, contributing some of their most inspired playing. (Luckily we had a CD player in fine working condition.)
I say, forget your car, truck, your motorbike or even your barrel.* If your fleet is down—if its transportation you lack—fear not. Have a seat and listen to the far reaching music on this disc. If you’re anything like us, you’ll find yourself thoroughly transported, by blues-playing professionals, and finding multiple joys in the journey.—Mudcat Ward
*I direct your attention to track # 9 “The Last Words of a Fool.”
Sugar Ray comments on the title My Life, My Friends, My Music: “For over thirty five years I have been privileged to be the vocalist and harmonica player for literally thousands of Bluetones’ gigs and for countless nights fronting Roomful of Blues and various horn bands, quartets, trios and duos. This collection of songs represents the culmination of my past musical endeavors, a never-ending musical pilgrimage.”
Thank You…Patty, Jesse, Bubby, Clay and Lucy, Ken Graczyk, Jeff Aptt, The Geraci and Miller Families, Dennis Willmott, Sonny Jr., David Earl and Severn Records.
“Little Green Talking Frog” is dedicated to Alberto and Maimoona.
Catered by Norcia Catering
Sugar Ray Norcia: Vocals and Harmonica
Michael “Mudcat” Ward: Acoustic Bass
Neil Gouvin: Drums
Anthony Geraci: Piano
Duke Robillard: Guitar (tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 12, 13, 14, 15)
“Monster” Mike Welch: Guitar (tracks 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11)
Greg Piccolo: Tenor Sax
Doug “Mr. Low” James: Baritone Sax
Carl Querfurth: Trombone
Bob Enos: Trumpet
Horn Arrangements by Carl Querfurth; except track 6 – arranged by Doug James
Duke Robillard appears courtesy of Stony Plain Records
Produced by Sugar Ray Norcia
Recorded and Mixed by Jack Gauthier at Lakewest Studios, Coventry, RI
Mastered by: David Glasser, Airshow Mastering, Boulder, CO
CD design by Al Brandtner, Brandtner Design, Chicago, IL