How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Joe Beard is a slack-mouthed blues singer and guitarist from the Mississippi Delta who now lives in Rochester, N.Y. His second AudioQuest release unites him with five of my favorite blues musicians: guitar-slinger Duke Robillard, harmonica-ace Jerry Portnoy, and three of Ronnie Earl's former Broadcasters including keyboard-whiz Bruce Katz. For Real offers up seven original tunes and six covers. It intersperses slow, heartfelt ballads such as "Elem" with fast-paced numbers such as "See See Rider" and "Reap What You Sow." Katz, Robillard and Portnoy trade fiery solos throughout, and Beard's singing is soul-drenched and passionate. Throw in the crack rhythm section, and this is one fine blues release, particularly if you like your blues slow and soulful.