Too Far From The Bar, the new album from Sugar Ray and the Bluetones, featuring Little Charlie Baty. Produced by Duke Robillard, who also adds his tasty guitar licks to four tracks on the new disc, Too Far From The Bar was recorded at Severn Sound Studio in Annapolis, Maryland, and boasts a value-packed 15 tracks, including a number of original songs penned by the band’s members, showcasing their songwriting abilities as one of the group’s many strengths. The core band for the recording sessions was comprised of Sugar Ray Norcia – vocals and harmonica; Charlie Baty – guitar; Anthony Geraci – piano; Michael Mudcat Ward – acoustic bass; and Neil Gouvin – drums.
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; Living Tear To Tear; and Seeing Is Believing.
I have a distant memory of a place called the Sleeping Lady Café in Fairfax, CA. I used to play guitar there occasionally in the early 1980s, along with Rick Estrin on harmonica. It was a small café that prohibited smoking (rare at that time in a club) and featured a weekly blues show and radio broadcast hosted by Mark Naftalin. We would play a set of music and then retire upstairs to a sort of green room/lounging area, where smoking was permitted. Invariably, there were other Bay Area blues musicians milling about and someone would have a cassette player or a boom box. Board tapes from blues bands around the United States would be played. There were blues and roots bands popping up all around the country: the T-Birds, the Cobras, the Flying Saucer Band, Hollywood Fats Combo, and many others. This is where I first heard Sugar Ray Norcia and the Bluetones almost 40 years ago.
My first impressions of Sugar Ray Norcia were that he had an outstanding voice and he had a unique harmonica style. Listening to these various groups from around the country made me realize that a storm was brewing and that a national scene was starting to form. As the 1980s proceeded, more and more touring blues seemed to appear in Bay Area clubs. Little Charlie and the Nightcats signed to Alligator Records and we starting touring in earnest. Within two years, we had appeared in 39 states; within ten years, all 50. But I After a brief attempt at retirement, I accepted an offer to work with Mark Hummel on a Tribute to Little Walter tour. I finally met Sugar Ray Norcia. We instantly hit it off stylistically and personality wise. A live recording was made from a concert on the Tribute to Little Walter tour, and the ensuing CD Remembering Little Walter, was nominated for a Grammy and won 2 Blues Music Awards.
Several years later, Ray and I discussed touring together and recording a CD. Sugar and I both really enjoy a diverse swath of music. We had each started with the blues, but had separately accumulated a lifetime of other musical interests that had been gradually integrated into our own personal styles. Now we would make a record with the veterans of a 40 year old Bluetones band: Anthony Geraci, Mudcat Ward and Neil Gouvin. The eminent Duke Robillard, one of the founders of Roomful of Blues and one of the great swing players of our lifetime, would produce the session.
This historic CD features many original tunes and some spirited guitar exchanges between Duke Robillard and myself. It features the stellar vocals of Ray Norcia and his incredible harp playing. This recording showcases the enthusiasm and originality of two different forces of swing and jump blues, backed by a top notch band, and guided by one of the premier guitarists and producers of our generation. Blues aged like a fine cognac – don’t stray Too Far From the Bar! — Charlie Baty, 2020
As a young blues and R&B fanatic, while acting in the triple role of leader, guitarist and vocalist of Roomful of Blues, I saw Sugar Ray Norcia come up. Sugar played and sang the blues from his late teens on, never varying his focus and making a straight line to the pinnacle of top shelf blues, winning the respect of most of the blues’ most important icons. His singing and playing are truly as good as it gets, folks, and I am very proud to be involved with this fabulous recording. Now, add in West Coast guitar monster Little Charlie Baty, and you have something truly special!
Charlie, like Sugar Ray, has steered clear of the influence of music he doesn’t believe in, never giving in to the pop mainstream. Both are artists to be admired for their talent and their dedication to the blues. So sit back, turn up your hi-fi and let the music soothe your soul! — Duke Robillard
Sugar Ray Norcia: Vocals and Harmonica
Charlie Baty: Guitar
Anthony Geraci: Piano
Michael “Mudcat” Ward: Acoustic Bass
Neil Gouvin: Drums
Duke Robillard: Guitar (tracks 4, 9, 11, 13)
Produced by Duke Robillard
Recorded and mixed by David Earl
at Severn Sound Studio, Annapolis, MD
Mixed by Jack Gauthier and Duke Robillard
at Lakewest Studios, Coventry, RI
Mastered by John Mailloux
at Bongo Beach Productions, Westpoort, MA
Art Direction and Design by Al Brandtner,
Brandtner Design, Chicago, IL
Inside flap Photography by Farmer John
Sugar Ray Norcia plays Hohner harmonicas
and uses Sonny Jr. harp amps.
Anthony Geraci appears Courtesy
of Shining Stone / Blue Duchess Records.
Sugar Ray and the Bluetones would like to express their love and appreciation to the following…Patty, Jesse, Marie, Lauren, Gia and all of the Norcia family and relatives; Isabelle Cattez Ward, Clay, Aria and “Grandboy” Ember, Thomas, Hugo and Mathis, Peter “Hi-Fi” Ward; Ann, Jan Gouvin; Otis Grand, Andrea Miller, Jason, Todd and Mikayla Geraci; Monster Mike Welch, Ronnie Earl, Donna and Debbie, Patrick and Claudine van Speybrock, Erkan Özdemir and family, Jason Ricci and Kaittlin Dibble, Tia Gouttebel and Marco, Laurent Gilleron and family, Mike Law, David and Bridget Earl, Duke Robillard, Jack Gauthier, Troy and Molly Gonyea, Tom Ferraro, Tom Hazeltine and Suwanna, Barbara Newman and The Blues Foundation, Gina McClain, Mark Pucci, Paul Benjamin, Harty Wiedemann, John Chan, John Hall, Moe and Joe Marino, Fred and Trina Smolen, Dominic and Lisa Rello, Jeff Aptt, Mike Riley and family.
Little Charlie wants to thank Vero Amplifiers, Ernie Ball Guitar Strings, Pete Kanaras (for the use of his Strat), and Keith Cary.
To the loving memory of Floyd Ughtnin’ Chance and Mike Ledbetter.