When he debuted with GOLDDIGGER in 1998, much of the blues world was already familiar with Ronnie Baker Brooks via his long apprenticeship as bandleader for living legend patriarch, Lonnie Brooks. His primal effort helped him earn a WC Handy Award nomination for “Best New Blues Artist” and enough encouragement from fans and media to light the runway for takeoff of a successful solo career.
His career since has successfully navigated a path through the heaving landscape of independent music marketing, revealing how today’s talented artist can achieve unprecedented self-determination in their careers with hard work, intelligent marketing and grass roots loyalty.
The four years spent carefully cultivating his latest recordings have paid great dividends with THE TORCH, the epitome of a courageous and genre-bending release. Heart and soul are laid bare on track after track as bridges are built between more traditional concepts of blues music and modern freedoms of expression.
An apt analogy, “THE TORCH” symbolizes Ronnie Baker Brook’s role in the evolution of contemporary blues. A legacy steeped in the Chicago music tradition, he is ignited by passion for the family craft and fuelled by the responsibility of being crowned steward of the form by some of its most venerable masters. Ronnie bears the flame of a generations-old muse to an ever-widening modern audience.
“You won’t hear me singing songs about working in the fields or trying to move up from out of the Delta, because those aren’t my experiences…” Ronnie says, “but you will hear songs about growing up on the south side of Chicago and the things you see in the ghetto as a kid. They’re different experiences, so I might sing about them a different way, but it’s still the blues.“
THE TORCH metaphor applies as easily to the incendiary Ronnie Baker Brooks stage show that has been scorching festival stages and steaming up tavern windows from coast to coast. Ronnie fans the flames of three young journeymen in Daryl Coutts (keys, organ) Maurice Taylor (drums) and Carlton Armstrong (bass), bringing to life an interplay of fiery elements greater than the sum of its parts and more accurately contained than controlled.
Made up entirely of original material, most of the new songs were recorded in Memphis with the same Chicago-based ensemble that has backed Ronnie on the road these past several years. Several others were recorded in Minneapolis where Ronnie enlisted members of another band that knows well how to keep up with a funky front man, Chance Howard and Michael Bland of Prince’s New Power Generation.