Jose Ramirez – Here I Come
11 songs – 56 minutes
After Christone “Kingfish” Ingram set the blues world on fire last year with his stellar debut CD, most fans might have believed he was a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon and that they’d have to wait decades for another artist to make such an immediate impression.
If you were one of them, this album from Jose Ramirez – a 32-year-old native of Costa Rica – is definitely going to shock you. Even though he hails from a country where calypso, soca, reggaeton, cumbia and other music forms dominate, he’s already a world-class blues talent, and one listen to this sensational release will erase all doubts.
After settling on the west coast of Florida, Ramirez quickly established himself as a contemporary blues and R&B singer/guitarist, heavily influenced by Johnny “Guitar” Watson, T-Bone Walker, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Buddy Guy and others. He subsequently spent two years in Washington, D.C., and made two successful tours of Europe.
He represented the D.C. Blues Society in the 2020 International Blues Challenge, finishing in second place to Canada’s HOROJO Blues Band, a trio with a world-class recording artist in its lineup: guitarist JW-Jones whose 20-year, ten-album career has included one disc backed by both Charlie Musselwhite and Hubert Sumlin and another supervised by Tom Hambridge, a perennial Blues Music Award and Grammy candidate as a producer.
Now based back in Tampa, Ramirez called out his own big guns for this CD. It was recorded and produced by Lone Star State legend Anson Funderburgh at his Wire Recording Studios in Austin, Texas, and features a lineup that includes longtime Robert Cray and Etta James bandmate Jim Pugh on keys along with The Texas Horns – Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff, John Mills and Al Gomez – and a rhythm section comprised of Wes Starr (John Nemeth, Mark Hummel) on drums and Nate Rowe (The Noueaux Honkies) on bass. A collection of nine originals and two covers, almost all of the tunes deal with romantic themes and build tension through their slow and steady delivery.
Jose doesn’t waste any time before he introduces himself in the autobiographical “Here I Come,” delivering the medium-paced shuffle with old-school, big-band vocal sensibilities. He pays homage to the artists who led him to the path while delivering unadorned, single-note guitar runs that sting like a knife and are complimented by some of the tastiest work you’ll hear this year from Pugh – a Grammy winner himself – on the 88s.
The horns join in to open an unhurried, searing cover of T-Bone’s familiar 1950s classic, “I Miss You Baby,” before Anson makes his first of two appearances on the fretboard and trades licks for the incendiary “Gasoline and Matches,” a percussive pleaser that describes the feelings Ramirez experiences every time he sets eyes on his lady.
“One Woman Man” delivers more great, single-note runs along with a warning for the woman not to get too close because falling in love isn’t in the singer’s plans. It flows effortlessly into “Goodbye Letter,” which describes waking in the morning to find her gone, borrowing ever so slightly from Magic Sam’s “Easy Baby,” but taking the essence of the hook in another direction.
The Way You Make Me Feel,” a Memphis-style soul-blues, finds Ramirez heaping praise on the lady. But the mood darkens in “Three Years” – aided by Anson – which describes waiting patiently for her to return but falling in love with someone else before she finally shows up.
Two more tunes — “As You Can See Now” and “Waiting for Your Call” – are both bittersweet views of romance. The former is an urban soul ballad in which Jose reflects on a past romance and yearns for a reunion. The latter finds him wishing the lady would leave because she only views him as a friend. The disc concludes with an interesting cover of Robert Johnson’s “Traveling Riverside Blues,” which is delivered with a reggae feel, “Stop Teasing Me,” the fastest paced number in the set.
Available from Amazon, Apple Music and Spotify, Here I Come is the complete package. Run, don’t walk to buy this one. It’s destined for greatness come awards season.