Li'l RONNIE & The Grand Dukes – Young and Evil 2001

Li’l RONNIE & The Grand Dukes – Young and Evil 2001


An accomplished and entertaining set of traditional electric blues, Li’l Ronnie and the Grand Dukes translate reverence into impassioned performance. Joined by guitarist Anson Funderburgh, Ronnie Owens deftly leads his band through a roll call of blues genre exercises, from the loosely rocking Texas blues of “Leavin’ Here Tonight” to a jump blues cover of Amos Milburn’s “Chicken Shack Boogie” and a slow burning rendition of George Smith’s “Early One Monday Morning.” Owens more than holds his own on the seven originals here, as well, with big swinging blues shouters, tight soul grooves, and jazzy instrumentals all sharing time. As Owens is a soulful vocalist and standout harpist, he does well to allow his backing band to share the spotlight in his powerhouse performances. Sure, it’s all been done before, but this kind of enthusiasm and authenticity makes for an addition that should be welcome in any blues collection.
By Matt Fink, All Music Guide.
The American roots music of Richmond VA’s Li’l Ronnie and the Grand Dukes is equally influenced by 50’s R&B, various styles of the blues, and rockabilly. Along the way they mix in some soul, swamp rock and even a touch of jazz. All of this is evident in the grooves of Young & Evil, the latest album by veteran singer/ songwriter/harpist Ronnie Owens. The seasoned and versatile Grand Dukes—guitarist Mike Dutton, drummer Bobby Olive, bassist Steve Riggs, keyboardist Steve Utt, and sax player Terry Hummer—are joined on five tracks by one of the premier guitarists in the blues today, Anson Funderburgh.
“Young and Evil” is proof positive that music is going the way of movies: you must go through the independent labels to find the true gems these days.
I have always been a big fan of true form blues… Texas artists like T-Bone Walker and Gatemouth Brown … to Chicago blues masters like Big Walter Horton and B.B. King … and the West Coast guys like the Hollywood Fats Band and Kid Ramos too. Li’l Ronnie and the Grand Dukes have managed to blend it all into this album without falling into the “blues- rock” trap and
using few cover tunes to carry the record (although there are four nice ones on this one).

Out of the seven original tunes on the CD, my favorite has to be “Mellow Chick.” All of the musicians show their best work here. The only thing missing is frontman Ronnie Owens’ near perfect toned harp (which you get in other tunes on the CD, particularly in “Buck Naked” and “Think Big”). This
’50s styled R&B song features Owens’ cleverly catchy lyrics, while drummer Bobby Olive and Steve Riggs on bass keep the rhythm section nice and clean. Guest guitarist Anson Funderburgh (as in the Rockets!) plays the bouncy rhythm line, while Grand Dukes’ guitarist Mike Dutton’s chord accents blends with Terry Hummer’s syncopated horn lines. There’s also some nice stuff mixed in from Steve Utt on keyboards. But you have to WAIT UNTIL THE END FOR THE BEST PART!!!… Dutton and Funderburgh trade some nasty guitar solos.

And don’t miss out on the instrumental … “Think Big.” Owens kicks it off the obviously (and quite impressive) Big Walter influenced tune. Dutton and Funderburgh’s guitar styles blend very well together. With Funderburgh holding the bottom end and Dutton playing embellishments off the harp, the tune has a cool old Chess Records feel.

Two others you’ll want to listen to before taking this CD out of your disc changer are “Let Me Down Easy” and the Slim Harpo cover tune, “I’ve Been Your Good Thing.” Not a bad tune on the whole CD… I highly recommend it!
By K.A.C.
Harpist,vocalist Ronnie Owens and band offer an interesting collection on West Coast swing, Chicago harmonica and T-Bone Texas blues. Though the material is of the American roots variety, the overall sound is surprisingly contemporary. Seven of the 11 tunes on ‘Young & Evil’ are originals, while covers include deep selections from the songbooks of George Smith and Amos Milburn. The Grand Dukes have the sound of seasoned veterans and Owens himself is a first rate harpist… executing a harp wail that’s both eloquent and lowdown-and-dirty. Guest guitarist Anson Funderburgh provides a level of finesse and fluidity to several cuts…performances here are of major appeal.
From Blues Review.
Ronnie Owens- Vocals & Harmonica
Mike Dutton- Guitar
Steve Utt- Piano & Organ
Steve Riggs- Bass and Electric Bass
Bobby Olive- Drums
Terry Hummer- Saxophone
Anson Funderburgh- Guitar
Rick Olivarez- Guitar
01. Leavin’ Here Tonight
02. Mellow Chick
03. Young & Evil
04. Buck Naked
05. Rockin’
06. Think Big
07. Early One Monday Morning
08. Let Me Down Easy
09. I’ve Been Your Good Thing
10. Doggin’ Round
11. Chicken Shack Boogie

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