Don’t you just love the internet? It is especially fraught when using search engines as I need to do when a new artist arrives for review…I still remember searching for tour dates for the excellent blues band, The Hamsters and one of the suggestions was, shall we say a site where the horns weren’t made of brass! No, I didn’t click through: it was, however, mystifying why any such site would use hamsters in the title. On my latest search, no dubious addresses came up but I found a boxer, a baseball player and a Spanish guitar maker (that’s a Spanish company making guitars, not all Spanish ones!); but such is life’s rich tapestry. When you search (and you will want to) make sure that you append musician to the name.
Who and what am I talking about?… the debut album from a talented guitarist and singer called Jose Ramirez and it makes for great listening. Called Here I Come it reveals this Costa Rican born player has absorbed many and varied influences and delights in weaving them into his composing and playing. The cover also suggests a man of extremely good taste and commitment…he has tattoos on his forearms of Robert Johnson and the inner workings of a guitar. He wrote nine of the eleven songs and dares to cover the genius that adorns his right forearm as well as a Freddie Simon composition.
The title track opens proceedings with a traditional blues pattern lifted by the great piano and guitar interjections as well as a very good and spacious solo. Vocally, Jose is well suited to the blues as sings of his heroes and influences. I Miss You Baby is next and you’ll know it from Taj Mahal’s version…Jose gives it a horn-infused reading with more lovely piano from Jim Pugh. The guitar very much in the background as soft-toned chords allow the vocals the space…that tone transfers beautifully to a solo with few notes but bags of emotion to suit the lyrics.
Gasoline and Matches may not be a wise mix, but the song is a funk and horn laden soulful song that Jose pins with a simple but effective riff…again, until his solo, he leaves space for everyone else and when it does arrive it has (pun intended) the necessary spark to lift the whole song. One Woman Man is notable for some tasty guitar phrasing behind the lyrics and, although the repetitive piano jars at first, it soon becomes obvious why he used this motif…plus, the outstanding guitar solo would make me forgive anything. Goodbye Letter is a slow, familiar blues with more great piano and guitar playing and even starts with the well worn “Woke up this morning” lyric to welcome us in. The whole band combines well to make the familiar fresh and Jose delivers another classy solo too.
The Way You Make Me Feel is more funk and horns for a mid-paced and soulful slice of blues. The damped picking is almost reggae like but still used to great effect and, although I’d have preferred a guitar solo, the short, coned trumpet solo does work. Three Years has another familiar riff but he still makes it new enough and the guitar throughout is superb. The organ solo is inspired and gives way to an equally paced and thoughtful guitar solo. As You Can See starts all soul and Stax with the horns and breathy vocals but even this slow number delivers a solo of quality that again shows how the right number of notes played effectively speaks such volumes. Waiting For Your Call starts with lovely Hammond and sparse guitar before we hit the rhythm…more soulful blues with yet another crafted and meaningful solo.
Next up is the Robert Johnson classic that influenced so very many…Travelling Riverside Blues here takes a slightly different approach: the guitar and organ interplay works well and the guitar solo is exceptional and the funky chord work on the outdo reminds me of Stevie Salas and sounds great. The vocal approach works too and remember, this song was written in 1927 and is the source of the phrase, “Squeeze my lemons ’til the juice runs down my leg was born there. Final track, Stop Teasing Me closes the album with a very King feel and has at least three King’s influence in the brilliant guitar solo and is rounded nicely by an inspired Hammond solo too…a nice way to end a strong debut.
This is an accomplished, varied and structured blues album and promises great things from this undoubted talent. There may be no out and out blues-rockers but there is plenty to listen to and enjoy…and I do mean listen, otherwise, you will miss some of the depth of these compositions.
Bluesdoodles rating: A Wonderful blues based guitar driven album of high quality and variety
1. Here I Come
2. I Miss You Baby
3. Gasoline and Matches
4. One Woman Man
5. Goodbye Letter
6. The Way You Make Me Feel
7. Three Years
8. As You Can See
9. Waiting For Your Call
10. Traveling Riverside Blues
11. Stop Teasing Me
Jose Ramirez: Guitar and Vocals
Jim Pugh: Keyboards
Wes Starr: Drums
Nate Rowe: Bass
The Texas Horns: Kaz Kazanoff, Al Gomez, John Mills
Recorded in Austin, Texas and produced by Anson Funderburgh
(The iTunes run on took me to the brilliance of Josh White on the 1930s song, Friendless City Blues…a great guitar player who isn’t mentioned often enough.)