Ronnie Baker BrooksIf you're in the mood for a good dose of Chicago blues and R&B, check out the new disc from Ronnie Baker Brooks, The Torch. The son of blues legend Lonnie Brooks (who plays on the disc), Ronnie Baker Brooks offers a solid survey of guitar wailing feel-good blues rock on this disc that opens with a stompin' blues track that should resonate well in these parts: “Born in Chicago.” Brooks is playing at Buddy Guys Legends next Saturday, Nov. 25, and you can get more info on the album at his site at www.ronniebakerbrooks.com.

If Brooks doesn't soothe your hip-shaking bone enough, you should also check out the new format-fusing disc by the Grammy nominated Robert Randolph & The Family Band . The band has grown a great reputation for its energetic live act, and their latest disc Colorblind opens with “Ain't Nothing Wrong With That,” where Randolph declares "Red, yellow, black or white -- it don't matter! We all gettin' down tonight!” That's a promise the band keeps. Mixing soul, blues, funk, rock and more, they offer 11 tracks on “Colorblind,” including a cover of the Doobie Brothers' “Jesus is Just Alright” with help from Eric Clapton. Other guests include Dave Matthews, Leroi Moore, Leela James and Rashawn Ross, but the focus here isn't on famous friends, it's always on raising the roof.

If your thing is Spanish guitar music rather than R&B, you need to pick up the new self-titled disc from Rodrigo & Gabriela on Ato Records. The two guitarists have put together nine tracks of fiery instrumental guitar music that is filled with passion and electricity – despite their guitars being acoustic! The nine-song CD comes bundled with a DVD that includes the duo's rousing performance of a Mexican guitar version of “Stairway to Heaven” (which shows Rodrigo wearing a Slayer shirt, an acknowledgement of the duo's old heavy metal roots, not that you'd know if from their thigh-slapping Spanish acoustic performances these days!) For more information, check their site at www.rodgab.com.

 

FergieFergie
The Dutchess
(A&M)
½


After Stacy Ferguson scored a smash hit with Black-Eyed Peas in the salacious tease hit “My Humps,” she and head Pea will.i.am returned to the studio to craft a solo followup CD capitalizing on her newly found fame (she even references the Peas' hit on a couple songs). The result is The Dutchess, which opens with a rap about how hot she is (“Fergalicious”) where Ferguson insists that, despite being “delicious,” she's really a good girl who just loves to tease (“Fergalicious definition: make them boys go crazy” she sings and then notes “I ain't easy/(I ain't sleazy)/I got reasons why I tease ‘em/boys just come and go like seasons”.)

That's followed by one of the disc's picture-perfect tracks, a merger of ‘60s girl-pop with modern beats called “Clumsy,” where Fergie sings about being “clumsy and falling in love” atop a sample of Little Richard's “The Girl Can't Help It.” Then things slow down for some silky soul in “All That I Got (The Make Up Song)” before the disc hits its calculated, yet undeniably catchy single “London Bridge.” It's a rap that owes a vocal delivery style debt to Eminem as Fergie sings about letting it all loose at a club. The very next track, “Pedestal,” echoes “London Bridge” as she sings “Your pedestal is falling down, falling down, falling down” in a rappy number atop a handclap beat. The track also features an alluring sexy-voiced break that sounds like Gwen Stefani stopped by at the studio to vamp.

After “Pedestal,” the album gets progressively quieter showing the side of Fergie that could never appear on a Peas CD. Styles range from a touch of reggae in “Mary Jane Shoes” to forgettable crooner ballads like “Big Girls Don't Cry” and “Velvet.” It ends with a big production ballad dominated by a scalar piano trill and breathy-to-soaring vocals that make this feel like a theme from a Disney movie.

While the first half of the CD is the strongest, The Duchess proves that Ferguson's got a wide vocal range. She's definitely more than just another Pea in the pod.