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Sugar Blue - Threshold

Beeble Music LLC

11 tunes, easy listening Blues

Going back way too many years, more than I care to mention, I worked with Sugar on some of the very first Chicago Blues Fests the City had to offer. At that time Sugar was the new kid on the block. The modern rendition of Cotton, Wells, Butterfield, Musselwhite, Little Walter and other ‘old school’ legends. Sugar hit the ground running and never looked back. His recordings and association with the Rolling Stones are not only hallmarks in the world of Blues and Rock and Roll recording but helped set the scene for the high energy playing of Rock & Blues with harp from then ‘til now and still going. But that was then and this is the ‘new’ now. Sugar takes on a different direction with his release of Threshold. Quoting, “...because the tunes open new musical territory for us”.

The CD opens with ‘Living Your Love’ an easy pop-ish vocal based tune that takes some time to build up steam but then after several verses here comes Sugar Blues harp and we instantly fall back to the ‘more’ familiar. Vocals, Harp, Vocals, Harp, back and forth and back again. Key changes, modulations, tonal changes what the heck is going on here? It’s a whole new way to do the Blues. Pop Blues. Hip urban melody Blues. ‘Average Guy’ has a smooth cool Blues feel running through the chart. I have to admit it’s a little different but the Harp centers the piece. Strong, cool and Blue, sky blue. It’s a different approach, a different, maybe new style to Blues. A true mix of many things going on from a Manilow sounding vocal foundation to even that Bossa Nova sounding groove.

It takes up to the third track of the CD, ‘Noel News’ to start getting into a more familiar blues territory. Now that’s what I am more at home with, Sugar blowin’ his ass off with his rhythm section putting it down. How big is that cats harmonica? It must be huge ‘cause it has so many notes. And all just the right notes. This pattern of vocals followed by the tunes anchoring with harp goes on until we are once again reminded of 9/11. ‘Stop The War’ says it like it is, stop the war, kill no more. This might be a little heavy for most of us but I have to take my hat off to Sugar for making his statement of the need for peace. This almost has that vague reminiscent scent of past war protest songs of days gone by. Man those were some powerful times and Sugars comment on today's wars is just as powerful.

‘Ramblin’, nice soft and sweet. Short but oh so sweet. The perfect break from the strength of the previous song. ‘Cotton Time’. Now who was just talking about harp masters? Here is Sugar’s tribute to the great James Cotton. This time done with a singing guitar based riff. That “Strat/tubed Marshall amp” sound of cool jazz mixed with the defining vocals w/harp of this CD. Now here we are up to the seventh track before we get to a more Blues standard, ‘Messin’ With The Kid’.

I like the feature of a tight drum line but once again its Sugar and the command of his instrument that steals this show. Now we’re talkin’!

All in all this ain’t your Daddy’s Blues, it ain’t down home Blues and it sure as heck isn’t old school. But old school or new school its good school no matter how you cut it. We don’t always want what we grew up with and this new release by Mr. Sugar Blue delivers a different cut above.

Reviewer Chuck Gomez worked out of Chicago’s Mayor’s Office of Special Events for over a decade back at the start of the Chicago Blues Fest, plays sax and tours with many leading Blues musicians/Chicago style. He is Columbia College’s special events producer and owns/produces/promotes the Watseka Theatre, Iroquois Performing Arts Center. The Watseka Theatre Blues, BBQ & Arts Fest is the last Saturday of each May, this year May 29th, 2010. Go to: for more information.

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