New England Blues Stalwart Anthony Geraci Leads Quartet On Boisterous ‘Blues Called My Name’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

A stalwart on the New England blues scene for decades as a key member of both Sugar Ray & the Blue-Tones and Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters, keyboardist Anthony Geraci continues to deliver stellar work as a bandleader. A GRAMMY winner, BMA winner, and multiple BMA nominee, the well-respected Geraci yet finds another new label, in the dwindling number of reputable options for blues musicians. In fact, the emerging Lancaster, PA-based Blue Heart Records should receive some kind of award as the Label of the Year given their roster of Veronica Lewis, Teresa James, and Malaya Blue, to name just a few. Blues Called My Name is another gem for Geraci in a line of albums that includes Anthony Geraci and the Boston All-Stars (2015) Why Did You Have to Go? (2018), Fifty Shades of Blue (2019), and Daydreams in Blue (2020), the latter of which we covered on these pages. Also, Geraci plays brilliantly as a guest on Ronnie Earl’s stellar Mercy Me, also covered here. Geraci’s core band has been revamped since that last outing. He leads a core quartet of Paul Loranger (acoustic bass), the returning Jeff Armstrong (drums), and guitarist Charlie O’Neal. Just as he’s customarily done, he not only calls on his friends but features them on select tracks. His buddies from Sugar Ray & the Bluetones, guitarist Monster Mike Welch and vocalist Sugar Ray Norcia are prominent on the title track while Norcia also sings on two others in this mix of vocal and instrumental originals. Also aboard are renowned guitarist Walter Trout, violinist Anne Harris, vocalist Erika Van Pelt, guitarist Barrett Anderson, and Boston Blues All-Star members tenorist John Vanderpool and bassist Chris Rathbun. The album kicks off, with a tune that actually makes a dying sound like a cause for celebration in the rollicking “Old Pine Box” as Sugar Ray Norcia sings about the angels “calling to me” while following with the title track wherein the blues are calling – “I said the blues whispered she ain’t coming home no more/I just cried like a little bitty baby when she walked out that door” to the commanding, searing guitar of Monster Mike Welch as Geraci delivers his signature barrelhouse piano rolls. We then hear a couple of instrumental pieces, the first, the Latin-tinged “About Last Night,” rendered with his core trio as Geraci takes to the Hammond B3, another instrument that he has clearly mastered. Geraci is the purest, sticking with acoustic piano and genuine organ. And, the rocking piano trio rendering “Boston Stomp” has the kind of boisterous appeal one could apply to any location. He shows his natural knack for blues titles in “Corner of Heartbreak and Pain,” sung with passion by Erika Van Pelt, and follows with a rare vocal of his own, “I Go Ooh,” an ode to physical attraction replete with “baby blue eyes” and “thick in the thighs” imbued by early R&B tenor sax from John Vanderpool. Blues-rock guitarist Walter Trout steps in for a trademark spiraling flight on the instrumental “Into the Night” while Sugar Ray returns for the swaggering boogaloo “I Ain’t Gonna Ask.” Geraci teams with violinist Anne Harris on the expansive “Wading Through Vermillion,” which begins by evoking a sweaty journey through a humid swamp before becoming triumphant and celebratory in its latter half. Fittingly, Geraci ends with a solo excursion on “Song for Planet Earth,” a throwback sound to the early stride pianists of the ‘30s. Yes, as a Berklee graduate, Geraci knows his blues and jazz history too. Geraci joins his New England blues brethren Duke Robillard and Ronnie Earl with one of this year-to-date best blues recordings.

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