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Ron Sunshine & Full Swing: Straight Up

AAJ Staff By

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“It’s where jazz, blues, and gospel intermingle,” says Ron Sunshine; that describes Nouveau Swing as well as anything. Like a lot of the music, this album is jump blues, including a tune by its high priest, Louis Jordan. Sunshine blows a harmonica, and the band has deep blues credentials (members have played for Buddy Guy, Johnnie Johnson, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.) It’s a blast, from the hip covers to the authentic originals – and you don’t need a 78 turntable!

“Enough for You” tells you they’re serious – chugging rhythm guitar, gritty riff sax, and a full-throated mouth organ from the late ‘Forties. The voice is knowing, and does the job without sounding “hip” (the best in this style don’t “act” cool – they simply ARE.) Ron is upset that his girl’s tastes are richer than he is: “There will never be enough for you/ I give you one and Baby, you want two!” The group response and handclaps come with the era, as does the theme of “no bread”. “Hit That Jive Jack” has a tight group vocal, and a gentle swagger from saxman Craig Dreyer. The light guitar of Don Hovey is also welcome, recalling the days before distortion. Sunshine then hits the tin sandwich – talk about a foghorn! It’s a great blast, and even on the light numbers it keeps the blues rolling late into the night.

“Red Light” is a marvel; this original has the stamp of the ‘Forties all over it. Ron is upset that cops have shut down Lover’s Lane, and the only place he can kiss his girl is when the traffic light changes. Dreyer screams his frustration, and Sunshine echoes him: “Now’s the time when green means stop and red means go, go go!”

“Is That The Moon” adds three horns and a lovely slow vocal. Muted trumpet and deep baritone keep things tender, and Sunshine gets a lovely wah-wah from his harmonica – it fits like a fedora. “Lounging at the Waldorf” has a sweet vocal from one identified only as Moanin’ Mary. It’s a relaxed coo, with quite a hint of Billie Holiday. “How are you doing, Mr. Funky?” she asks Sunshine. It’s perfect; moan on, Mary.

“Tid Bits” is a tough instrumental: Dreyer does well, and so does drummer James Wormworth. “Do You Know?” has Dreyer’s guttural blast leading into Sunshine’s smooth vocal. He keeps momentos of his love, a tenderness shared by piano and gently chugging guitar. And “Undecided” pours on the jive, harmonica joining the horn section and lyrics running together delightfully. Andres Villemil strums the bass for a modern sound, and Wormworth crashes home for a grand finish. I’m not undecided – I like it!


Title: Straight Up | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Daddy-O/Royalty Records


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