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Sugar Blue | Threshold

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Rock: Jam-band Blues: Harmonica Blues Moods: Mood: Virtuoso
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Threshold

by Sugar Blue

Harmonica Explosion!
Genre: Rock: Jam-band
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Living your love / Sandy's song
5:39 $0.99
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2. Average Guy
5:36 $0.99
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3. Noel news
5:09 $0.99
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4. Stop the War
4:55 $0.99
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5. Ramblin'
2:28 $0.99
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6. Cotton Tree
4:29 $0.99
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7. Messin' with the kid
4:55 $1.09
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8. Tonight
3:54 $0.99
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9. Trouble
3:29 $0.99
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10. Don't call me
5:01 $0.99
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11. Nightmare
6:23 $0.99
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12. interview
19:25 $1.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
"...his first-rate, virtuoso harmonica playing always satisfies the true blues connoisseur in the attack and fluid lines he doles out..." - ALL MUSIC

"...gritty and soulful harmonica playing: this album is one that celebrates and mixes the roots of music that has helped shape the culture in America." - RADIO INDY

“…like a true genius, his sound transcends genres" - BLURT

“Blue recalls other instrumentalists without duplicating anyone. He plays runs that suggest the chromatic work of Stevie Wonder and Toots Thieleman, as well as jazz trumpeters and saxophonists.” - HYPERBOLIUM

“This one is heavy on the side of Soul with traces of Jazz, but does get into some rather heavy Blues. Sugar Blue has tapped into the emotional state that is common to us all and is playing off of that. The musicianship on this one is no less than immaculate with Sugar’s vocal and harp work being more refined than ever. – BILLTOWN BLUE NOTES

"...the eleven cuts herein (nine of them originals) show a bold new direction for Blue, incorporating soul, rock, jazz, and funk into his deep-seated affinity for the blues" - NASHVILLE BLUES SOCIETY



— “We have chosen the title Threshold because the tunes open new musical territory for us,” says bluesman Sugar Blue of his new album, due out January 26, 2010 on Beeble Music. The album follows the acclaimed 2007 album Code Blue, which hinted at a widening musical path.

In addition to Sugar Blue on harmonica and vocals, Threshold features guitarist Rico McFarland (Albert King, Otis Clay, Syl Johnson, James Cotton, Lucky Peterson); guitarist Moto Makino (Los Lobos); Noel Neal, bass; James Knowles, drums; and Ilaria Lantieri, bass; with guests Bill Dickens, the “Buddha of Bass” (Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Janet Jackson, George Michael, Jerry Harrison) and percussionist Samuel Torres (Pancho Sanchez, Tito Puente, Chick Corea, Pete Escovedo). The album, produced by Sugar Blue, was recorded in both Chicago and Tokyo.

The nine original songs were co-written by Blue with Lantieri and Makino and range from blues to rock, funk, jazz and ballads. “Stop the War” is a cry for peace punctuated by Dickens’ bass line. “Cotton Tree” is an homage to living blues harmonica legend James Cotton, mentor to Sugar Blue as well as hundreds of harp players worldwide. “Noel News” celebrates the strength of the people of New Orleans. “Ramblin’” is a duet featuring Blue on both harmonica and Chromonica, a bass harp. The album also contains two coverby Junior Wells and “Trouble” the Lieber & Stoller-penned Elvis Presley hit. A spoken interview with Blue finishes the CD.

The Grammy Award-winning harmonica virtuoso was born James Whiting in Harlem, New York. Influenced by artists as diverse as Lester Young and Bob Dylan, Blue began his career playing on the streets, and later recorded with Brownie McGhee, Roosevelt Sykes and Victoria Spivey. He relocated to France on the advice of expatriate Memphis Slim, and while there hooked up with the Rolling Stones, who invited him to play on their Some Girls, Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You albums. Offered an indefinite session spot with the band, he turned down the offer in favor of returning to the U.S. Before leaving Europe, he recorded two albums, Crossroads and From Paris to Chicago.

In Chicago, Blue worked with and learned from harmonica legends Big Walter Horton, Carey Bell, James Cotton and Junior Wells. He played in the Chicago Blues All-Stars with friend and mentor Willie Dixon and contributed to Dixon’s Grammy-winning 1988 album Hidden Charms. He sat in with Fats Domino, Ray Charles and Jerry Lee Lewis for the Cinemax special Fats Domino and Friends. And he appeared onscreen and in the musical score of Alan Parker’s acclaimed 1987 thriller Angel Heart, starring Robert De Niro. Best known for his signature riff on the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” Blue performed his own version of the song on his 1993 Alligator Records album Blue Blazes, followed up with In Your Eyes.

As to how the name Sugar Blue came to be, “I needed a nickname and all the good ones were taken — Muddy Waters, Blind Lemon, Sonny Boy,” Blue explains. “One night a friend and I were leaving a Doc Watson concert when somebody threw out of the window a box full of old 78s. I picked one up and it said ‘Sugar Blues’ by Sidney Bechet. That’s it! I thought it was perfect. So here I am.”

Sugar Blue incorporates what he has learned into his visionary and singular style, technically dazzling yet wholly soulful. He bends, shakes and spills flurries of notes with simultaneous precision and abandon. And he zings too. His distinctive throat tends to be overlooked — a rich voice with a whisper of huskiness.

Of the Threshold album, Blue says, “I believe that the greatest threshold of all is love because it is the fount from which all human life springs. Life echoes the sounds of our interactions: joy, sadness, heartache, passion, loneliness, intimacy, celebration or solemn occasion. We have tried to give voice to these feelings in this musical offering.”

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Reviews


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Marty Gunther

A brave new world
From the first notes, Sugar Blue’s latest CD presents an auditory trip from the very roots of blues, funk and jazz from their Mississippi, New Orleans and Chicago roots to the Threshold of a new world musical order. Lovers of traditional blues are in for a treat with a reworking of the Junior Wells classic, Messin’ With the Kid. Stop-time breaks literally reinvent the tune. And the songs Trouble and Nightmare take the essence of Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon riffs rework them into new themes for the 21st century. Written by Noel Neal, who plays bass on the number, Noel News is a funky trip to the Big Muddy for Christmas in the Crescent City. Now living in Italy, Blue takes a world view in Stop the War, offers a tribute to the working man with Average Guy and adds a couple of love songs for good measure. Don’t Call Me is a wry, tongue-in-cheek ballad from the perspective a man awakened by a call from his lady and realizing the depth of his love. As usual, Blue surrounds himself with a cast of top-flight musicians who help deliver an outstanding package you’ll definitely enjoy. Not to be missed: A lengthy bonus track interview with the artist that provides additional insight into the artist, his creative process and influences.
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Sean B. and the RadioIndy.com Reviewer Team

Outstanding collection of songs featuring the Harmonica
"Threshold" is the latest record from the highly acclaimed recording artist Sugar Blue. It is a record comprised of songs that fuse Rock, Funk, Jazz, and Blues all around Sugar's Grammy-winning harmonica playing and features a cast of highly professional musicians. The track, "Messin’ with the kid," is a classic Blues tune with a little bit of exhilaration thrown in and features some gritty and soulful harmonica playing from Sugar. "Noel news" is a funky piece, played with a little bit of Creole influence, that celebrates what Christmas is like down in the crescent city of New Orleans. "Don't call me" is more of a tranquil jazz song in which Sugar lets his harmonica playing be a soulful backup to his vocals as he emotionally croons to the one he loves. This album is one that celebrates and mixes the roots of music that has helped shape the culture in America. Whether you want to dance or be musically inspired, this album will do it for you. And if you love Funky or Bluesy harmonica playing, well then "Threshold" might just be a must for your album collection.
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Sandra Kring

Sugar Blue does it again!
Sugar Blue blows away the peripheries between musical genres in Threshold, creating a musical fusion of blues, funk, R&B, rock, reggae, and jazz that reads like a musical journal of the places and sounds that shaped his career. But to assume that this legendary bluesman left the blues behind on this CD, would be a mistake. It’s more like he invited other genres and listeners in for a block party. And what a block party it is!

I’ve had this CD since its release and every time I play it, Blue’s harmonica works on me like the Pied Piper’s flute and entices me to one or two tracks that I’ll play repeatedly. Tonight it lured me to Ramblin’, a soulful, beautiful harp instrumental that so aptly captures the heat of a summer afternoon that you can almost feel the sweat gather above your lip. And from there I was led to the killing fields via his blockbuster of a song, Stop the War. Brilliantly written, sung, produced, and played, Stop the War’s harmonica and lyrics pound out the musician’s rage and reasoning against war, holding us spellbound, and leaving us spent by the final sounds of a beating heart. Which of the stellar songs remaining on this CD will entice me next remains to be seen, but of one thing I’m certain—they, too, will hold me captive through a few plays.

Just when you think Sugar Blue HAS to have reached the pinnacle of his artistry as a harmonica player, a singer, and a songwriter, he kicks it up a few more notches. And so he has with Threshold. This is a CD not to be missed!
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