Sugar Blue At the Riverwalk Blues Festival

Blues harpist Sugar Blue is best-known as the musician who contributed the signature harmonica riff to the Rolling Stones' disco hit "Miss You." He's maintained a vibrant career ever since. Blue takes his handle from an obscure jazz recording and offers ongoing homage to such esteemed mentors as Big Walter Horton, Carey Bell, James Cotton, and Junior Wells. As such, he's distilled those influences into his own robust sound.

His new album, Threshold, continues to echo that bluesy regimen, but it also finds him diversifying his palette, fusing blues, R&B, funk, and smooth grooves into a set that seems primed for mass appeal. In other words, Sugar Blue doesn't play just for purists. And more often than not, his harmonica playing cedes the spotlight to his crack touring band, allowing it ample time to shine.

Still, Blue's approach is both dazzling and demonstrative, manifest in the rapid-fire dexterity he demonstrates on the album's furious cover of Junior Wells' "Messin' With the Kid," the emotional sweep of "Cotton Tree," and the controlled frenzy of "Noel News." It all bodes well for a spectacular live show, proving that it isn't merely Stones that ensure Sugar Blue still rocks.


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