A self-described "team player,"
Ron Sorin has been a busy
sideman on the Chicago blues scene since the 1970s. His lengthy and
distinguished blues resume includes stints with Big Moose Walker,
Littlejohn, Hubert Sumlin, Bo Diddley, Willie Kent, Bob Stroger, James
Wheeler, Detroit Junior, Deitra Farr, Gloria Hardiman, Steve Freund, and Ken
Saydak. Ron was also a founding member of Big Shoulders, an American roots
music band that released two albums on Rounder Records. Still in print,
these sides reveal that he was already a formidable player by the late 80s.
This is Ron Sorin's first solo project. His harp is out front, weaving its
way through a wide variety of blues-based material. It's a musical journey
that evokes cotton fields, open water, storefront churches, juke joints,
jazz clubs, and even Walt Disney. Ron wrote most of the tunes, and they
reflect his life experiences and musical influences. The CD title, "Lake
City," refers to the Chicago lakefront neighborhood Ron grew up in. Where he
first fell in love with the blues.
This project was conceived in the studio, and some of the best blues
musicians in Chicago helped out. Severn recording artist Tad Robinson
handles most of the lead vocals and his melismatic, soulful delivery is
especially effective on “7 Years.” Equal parts blues belter and soul singer,
Tad turns in one strong performance after another. Veteran bassist Harlan
Terson and ace drummer Marty Binder expertly lock down a diverse set of
grooves. Harlan co-produced this CD along with Ron and contributed one of
his own tunes, "Autumn Rush," to the song list. "I've Got No Strings" from
the Disney movie Pinocchio was Harlan's idea and is given a wild rock 'n'
roll ride. Old friend Ken Saydak drops by to overdub keys and background
vocals. Mark Wydra's guitar work is stellar throughout, encompassing several
different blues styles. Everyone involved, in fact, serves the music well.
But the common thread is Ron Sorin's exuberant, blues-drenched harp work.
Ron has been playing the blues on harmonica since the age of thirteen. By
sixteen he was already a professional, working on Chicago's north side with
Mississippi bluesman Johnny "Big Moose" Walker. Ron's playing style is a
blend of past masters, lessons learned on countless bandstands over the
decades, and his own experimentation. He loves to tinker with old riffs and
classic lines. The result is something that sounds deeply immersed in blues
harp history; yet fresh and inventive at the same time-definitely not
without its own quirks and surprises.
Harp highlights for me include the tough Chicago playing on "Hang Tight,"
full of swagger and testosterone. Both Ron's solo and background work are
outstanding here. "Gimme Dat Harp, Boy" is raw, primeval stuff and might
just be the first time a polyphonia harmonica was ever used on a blues
session. Few play 1st position blues harp as well as Ron, and that skill is
fully displayed on "I've Got No Strings" and "Back Pocket." He stretches out
on two self-penned instrumentals, "Chump Change" and "Northeaster." The
former, done in one take, finds his harp almost sounding like a horn section
in spots. The latter title refers to a wind pattern off Lake Michigan, but
Ron's own blowing on this one could serve as primer on how to breathe
through a harmonica. Reminiscent of the late harpist Little Walter, Ron is
playing lead and rhythm almost simultaneously through the tune, and sounding
relaxed and effortless while doing it. Bottom line: if you are blues
harmonica fan, there is a treasure trove of great reed work throughout this
CD to enjoy and/or study.
I've known Ron Sorin since the 70's as a modest guy who prefers to let his
harp work speak for itself. Well, it's done that here. And to my ears it
says: world-class blues player, made in Chicago. Hopefully this release will
get him some much-deserved recognition beyond the city limits. He has been
one of the blues harmonica's best kept secrets for far too long.
Born in Chicago, Ron caught the blues bug at an early age. Determined to
hear the music played live, he grew a moustache and with a fake ID started
going to Chicago blues clubs to listen to the likes of Muddy Waters,
Wolf, Big Walter, Junior Wells, and James Cotton. His first professional gig
was with Big Moose Walker while still a teen, and he has been playing harp
and weaving his way through the Chicago blues scene ever since. Ron has
worked with numerous blues artists such as Johnny Littlejohn, Bo Diddley,
Hubert Sumlin, Willie Kent, Pinetop Perkins, Gloria Hardiman and Dietra Farr
to name just a few. Ron has also recorded with several Chicago blues men
including Bob Stroger, James Wheeler, Ken Saydak, and Steve Freund. He was a
founding member of the popular American roots band Big Shoulders who
received crossover attention from their two CDs on Rounder Records. Ron has
an individual style anchored in traditional blues but at times seamlessly
straddles the line between straight blues and other roots influences. He has
released his first solo CD "Lake City", with the majority of the songs self
penned. Joining him are a host of top notch musicians and friends: Tad
Robinson, Harlan Terson, Mark Skyer, Mark Wydra, Marty Binder, Ken Saydak,
John Brumbach, James Wheeler, and Pete Benson.