In the Olympic tradition, when the torch gets passed on, the flame transfers from one sure hand to the next -- keeping it burning, while at the same time moving forward. It's a fitting image for young Chicago guitar hero RONNIE BAKER BROOKS on his aptly titled third release, THE TORCH. Not only does he sing with soulful fire and play with a white-hot intensity; he's also carrying the torch from the previous generation of soul and blues greats and moving the music into the future.
As the 17 original songs on THE TORCH make clear, RBB is the right man for the job. Brooks grew up steeped in American music tradition yet his focus remains resolutely on the future. As well as anyone of his generation, he knows the transcendent release at the heart of soul, blues and rock. He knows because, as the son of blues great Lonnie Brooks, he came of age watching the fieriest guitar players and most soulful singers of a previous era express their deepest feelings through their music.
"I grew up among the best of the best," Brooks says. "Every time I play, I feel like I've got to do it with the authenticity and passion that I saw in guys like Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and my father. But I also have to put my twist on it. None of those guys repeated what came before them."
Brooks' twist involves enlivening blues-rock with deep soul and modern hip-hop vocals and funk rhythms. Working with Minneapolis producer Jellybean Johnson, a veteran collaborator of Prince and Janet Jackson, Brooks takes roots sounds and transforms them into something that spans the ages.
"I like to think of how Muddy Waters took the Mississippi blues he heard in his youth and modernized it for his times by making it electric and harder," Brooks explains. "That's what I'm trying to do for my generation. I want to take what's authentic and powerful about the music I grew up loving and bring in other influences without losing the heart and conviction of it."
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