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Contributing writer for STLBlues, BLUESWAX and the Blues Editor at www.Mary4Music.com

"DO WHAT 'CHA DO", the new release by LI'L RONNIE AND THE GRAND DUKES, could very well be the pole that vaults this band to the next level. It consists of eleven very well performed and very well written originals with a nice mix of Chicago and West Coast blues. Add that to having the master at having his band be constantly in a tight groove - ANSON FUNDERBURGH - as the records producer, and this one is going to be a sure hit.

The GRAND DUKES consist of RONNIE OWENS on harmonica and lead vocals, MICHAEL DUTTON on guitars and vocals, TOMMY HANNIGAN on electric and acoustic bass, GEORGE SHEPPARD on drums and STEVE UTT on piano and Hammond B3. Special guests on this project included TERRY HUMMER on tenor sax, NATE HAWKS on baritone sax and RATTLESNAKE SLIM on shakers.

Ronnie's style is so diversified that I'm led to believe he has had many influences. As I listen to this CD, I hear a lot of different sounds, all of them good. Several tracks brought William Clarke, Darrell Nulisch, Sugar Ray Norcia and Rod Piazza to mind.

"JUST LIKE A WOMAN" is one of the tracks that helped fulfil Ronnie's child hood dream of putting a Chicago blues band together. This one is right out of a MUDDY WATERS mold. From Ronnie's vocals and harp, from Mikes's guitar, and from Steve's piano, this was straight up blues at it's best.

"LIFE'S CHANGES" had the band in an equally hot Chicago style groove. On this one Ronnie switches his style of harp to that of one of my all time favorite players - Jimmy Reed.

"LOVE TRANCE", had me doing the mambo in my chair while tapping the keypad like it was a conga drum. George, Tommy, Rattlesnake and Steve had the rhythm just right on this one.

Nowhere on this CD is Anson's influence more apparent than on "JUST A FOOL". Just as he always has his ROCKETS, he now has the GRAND DUKES into a very tight groove. This is everyone in the band being featured simultaneously, or as I like to think of it, seven musicians playing from one brain. It's baffling how perfect this can and does sound.

Before I could even get to the point of saying anything about the last track, "STILL SWEATIN", I had to listen to it about 7-8 times. The first half of a dozen times it was totally impossible for me to concentrate on anything other than the music. It's an instrumental that just carried me away. Right off the bat the horn section locks into a groove behind a very hot organ solo which slowly switches to the background as the horns take over - the transition was so smooth. Eventually the guitar and harp get in some hot licks while the whole band just smokes. Being an instrumental could hold it back, but this one has song of the year written all over it.

All of the tracks not mentioned are as good as those mentioned. Now that I think about it, I could have very easily done this review with one word - WOW!

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