Here I Come
I've been waiting this month for
a new album to really, really grab me.
My new favorite blues album comes from a
very unlikely source, a relative
unknown cat from a place in the world not really
known for producing blues artists. Jose Ramirez
had his fling with fame earlier this year when
the native of Costa Rica, representing the D.C.
Blues Society, finished second in the
International Blues Challenge in Memphis.
It sure didn't take Ramirez long to
capitalize on his IBC showing as the
guitarist/vocalist teamed up with Anson Funderburgh
and some stellar backing musicians in a studio in
Austin to produce the very outstanding independent
release, Here I Come. Ramirez capably covers
a lot of different blues styles on the 11 cuts here,
segueing seamlessly from straight blues, horn-driven
soul and New Orleans funky stuff, as well as other
various influences. For a young dude in just his
early 30s, Ramirez also shows a knack for creative
songwriting, having composed nine of the 11 songs.
Ramirez opens with an
autobiographical blues shuffle, "Here I Come," on
which he introduces himself to the listener by
identifying his major blues influences. We get the first inkling that keyboardist Jim Pugh
(best known by for his 25 years with The Robert Cray Band) is going to be
the other highlight of this album as he plays some
extremely hot piano on this one. "I Miss You Baby,"
a Freddie Simon composition, follows, a nice slow blues with a
big band sound provided by the always exemplary
Texas Horns, while Ramirez shows off on guitar with a
very subtle T-Bone Walker-style solo that is, quite
The band gets funky on "Gasoline And
Matches," a New Orleans-ish romp with fine piano
from Pugh, big horn sound from the Texas Horns, and
most notably some unbelievably smokin' guitar
from both Ramirez and Funderburgh. "One Woman Man"
gives Ramirez the chance to use his very nice voice to
succinctly explain that he's certainly not a one
woman man and thus he's hard to love. Pugh sets down a
steady hypnotic beat on the piano before ending the
song with a jazzy Latin outro.
"Goodbye Letter," featuring more
great piano from Pugh, is a slow blues that at seven
minutes and 39 seconds is the longest song on the
album, but it's so good that you won't get bored by
Next up is a pleasant soulful tune, "The Way You
Make Me Feel," with a muted trumpet solo being the
highlight of this song.
Pugh switches over to the Hammond B3
to provide the foundation for the slow blues
shuffle, "Three Years," with Ramirez digging deep
into his soul to pour a lot of angst into his
smooth, soulful voice. He also coaxes as much emotion
from his guitar on a superb mid-song solo. Ramirez's voice is just as
strong on "As You Can See," a slow soul number, as he
begs his woman for her
Pugh's organ playing on the very
soulful "Waiting For Your Call" is outstanding,
intro-ing the song with a solo that reminds me of
Garth Hudson's best playing with The Band. The horns
come in behind Ramirez's vocals while Pugh continues
to lift what is already s a very good song to an
even higher level with innovative B3 sounds.
"Waiting For Your Call" is so strong and emotional that chills
ran up and down my spine. Pugh keeps it up on
Ramirez's version of Robert Johnson's "Traveling
Riverside Blues," turning this Delta classic into
something that the original artist likely couldn't
have imagined (or maybe he could have?). Nice guitar
work from Ramirez here, too, but again, quite a
change from the original.
Here I Come closes with a
strong mid-tempo blues shuffle, "Stop Teasing Me,"
in which Ramirez sings to an audience member who is
perhaps flirting at him from the dance floor,
finally threatening (or promising) to take her home
with him. The subject matter of this song
may or may not be based on actual incident ... only
Ramirez knows for sure. Once again, Pugh tears it up on the
I'd be remiss to not
comment on the fantastic blues-related tattoos that
Ramirez sports on both arms. You'll need to purchase
the album to see them, but trust me when I say that
both tats are truly creative and well-done. The man
or woman responsible for the artwork on Ramirez's
arms isn't credited in the liner notes, but
if the Blues Foundation ever awards a KBA for "best
blues tattoos" this artist will be a slam dunk
Here I Come is an early
candidate for the best blues album of 2020. If
there's anything better coming down the chute,
I can't wait to hear it. In the meantime, Here I
Come gets my highest recommendation. We should
be hearing a lot more from Ramirez in the future,
hopefully sooner rather than later.
--- Bill Mitchell