Ronald Earl Horvath was born in New York City in 1953. Ronnie was inspired to play the blues guitar after seeing Muddy Waters at a club in Boston, Massachusetts.
Earl recalls adopting the name “Earl” because “when I used to sit in with Muddy and all those old guys, they couldn’t pronounce my last name.” He has listed his influences as Robert Lockwood, B.B. King, Magic Sam and T-Bone Walker, among others.
Earl quickly graduated to playing clubs around the Boston area, and also spent some time in Chicago and Texas, backing many touring blues artists. He replaced Duke Robillard in Roomful of Blues and stayed with them for almost eight years. He left in the mid-1980s to pursue a successful solo career.
Ronnie has become an in-demand session guitarist and in 1999 won the W.C. Handy Award for Best Blues Guitarist. Often referred to as “Mr. Intensity”, Earl is rated as one of the finest living blues guitarists.
In today’s supercharged and often cynical world, Earl’s attitude to his life, and the way he wants to reach his listeners, may strike some as unusual, but it’s the nature of the man.
“I see my music as a way to have a deeper relationship with God, and bring healing and love to the people who listen to it.”
Ronnie Earl’s searing, deeply felt guitar playing permeates every one of the dozen tracks on Living in the Light (2009), but there are many other surprises and deep pleasures to be found. Nine of the dozen songs are originals, written or co-written by Earl.
Dave Keller, a singer and guitar player on the New England blues scene, sings two gospel-influenced songs - the powerful opener, “Love Love Love”, and Bob Dylan’s “What Can I Do for You”, which also features a ten-voice choir from Earl’s Baptist Church.
Kim Wilson, a dear friend, contributes three moving vocals and superbly realized harp parts to the new record. One of them is Robert Jr. Lockwood’s classic “Take a Little Walk with Me”; another is a deeply personal song about the Holocaust, “Child of a Survivor”.
“I’m Jewish, and my parents were survivors, and I never met my grandmother who was killed during the war. I wrote that song with Debbie Blanchard, my minister, and Kim Wilson put his stamp on it. “It’s the deepest blues,” he responds. “It’s a story that needs to be told; future generations will all need to be reminded of what happened.”
The contribution of Ronnie Earl’s Broadcasters is obvious from the first note. Dave Limina’s sterling work on Hammond B3 and piano provides a bedrock for the guitar playing, while drummer Lorne Entress and Jim Mouradian on bass are as solid and uplifting a rhythm section as can be imagined.
Ronnie Earl is a thoughtful, gentle man - not always the signature attitude of many blues artists - and it is simply not in him to want to sound either arrogant or glib.
“My greatest love in music is the blues; this is my ‘mother music’. And I dig deep - I have no choice; playing, for me, is a very emotional experience. I put every particle of my soul into it.
He is not interested in guitar technicalities; he plays Stratocasters and Nash guitars, but always says that the person behind the guitars should always be of more interest than the instrument itself.
As for defining his style, he can’t. “I’m just trying to get into peoples’ souls,” he says. “I’m just trying to reach peoples’ humanity.”
With his new record for Stony Plain, Living in the Light, he has done exactly that.