Sound Advice: Ronnie Baker Brooks (Aug. 12)

Contemporary Blues favorite Ronnie Baker Brooks plays the main stage at the Cincy Blues Fest at Sawyer Point.

click to enlarge Ronnie Baker Brooks - Photo: Provided
Photo: Provided
Ronnie Baker Brooks

Chicago has spawned its share of Blues legends, including Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy, Luther Allison and the late, great Lonnie Brooks, who passed away just four months ago at age 83. Brooks left behind a legacy of 16 amazing albums, a press kit bulging with glowing praise for his searing yet soulful style and an undeniable influence that will ripple through the Blues community for decades to come.

But the most potent examples of Lonnie Brooks' influence can be found in his sons, Wayne Baker Brooks and Ronnie Baker Brooks; the trio often toured as the Brooks Family Band. Ronnie Baker Brooks began playing guitar alongside his father on stage when he was just 6 years old. Eventually he learned to play bass and officially joined Lonnie's band when he was 21, but his guitar skills were on full display on Live From Chicago: Bayou Lightning Strikes, his father's scorching concert set.

At 31 and on advice from his father, Brooks went solo in the biggest possible way; 1998's Golddigger, produced by Jellybean Johnson, was one of the first albums to find the connective tissue between Blues Rock, contemporary R&B/Funk/Soul and Hip Hop without losing the passion and authenticity of its pure Blues roots.

Over the next decade, Brooks toured relentlessly and released two more acclaimed albums, 2001's Take Me Witcha, which featured an acoustic duet with his father, and 2006's The Torch, which earned Brooks a Best Album nomination from the Chicago Music Awards and a Contemporary Blues/Male Artist of the Year nod from the Blues Music Awards.

Since The Torch, Brooks has started his own family, maintained his constant road presence and worked studio sessions for Elvin Bishop, Billy Branch and Todd Park Mohr (aka Big Head Todd), as well as producing legend Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater's West Side Strut in 2008.

For Times Have Changed, his first album in over a decade, Brooks enlisted drummer-to-the-stars Steve Jordan as his producer; Jordan advised Brooks to shelve his pedal board and play straight through his amp for the first time. The result is one of the most incendiary and thrilling albums in Brooks' short but potent catalog, which, like Brooks' previous recordings, features a stellar guest list, including Steve Cropper, Felix Cavaliere and Lee Roy Parnell, among other luminaries.

At 50, Ronnie Baker Brooks is just getting warmed up, still learning about a craft he's qualified to teach and always most concerned about establishing the commonalities between his father's generation, his contemporaries and the generation that follows.


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