Feature in R2 RocknReel Magazine July/August 2013
Ronnie Greer has been, I confidently assert,the greatest blues guitarist in Ireland,since the 70’s,when he made his name playing in the legendary Jim Daly Blues Band, who often backed the likes of Dr John and Lowell Fulson. So why on earth did he wait until he was sixty-two before recording his studio album A Lifetime With The Blues?
“It was basically a practical thing” he explains.”Having worked all my life in the steel industry,I simply didn’t have the time to do it.When I took early retirement last year the first thing on the agenda was to make the album”
Greer’s playing distinctively blends Chicago blues with bebop jazz and he believes he is now playing better than ever.”I seldom have the guitar out of my hands now and I just want to keep improving,”he says.”Also the fact that I’m playing in the jazz field now,as well, is improving my playing tremendously.”
The album features special quests such as Grainne Duffy in addition to Greer’s core band.”We more or less were winging the whole thing,”says Greer.”That’s the essence, I think,of all the great blues men.All the great ones I’ve played with never seem to know exactly what was going to happen until we got on the bandstand.
The same thing happened with the Jim Daly band.We would have big concerts coming up, maybe with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee or Memphis Slim,and we would rehearse a set and then on the night,depending on what way Jim was feeling, the music would just take its own course.So,with the album, we just let it flow and tried to make it sound close to what you hear when you see the band live,in all its different forms,from the quartet up to the eight-piece big band.”
The album includes ‘Goin’Down To Clarksdale’,which is Greer’s songwriting debut.”It’s basic twelve-bar blues but it’s almost two songs,”says Greer.”The first part is talking about where the blues began and namechecking some of the guys that have influenced me like Johnny Shines and then I start a heartfelt thing about how I feel about the music. It was nice to be able,for once,to actually express that in musical terms instead of just talking about it.”
The album is dedicated to,amongst other people, the late Ottilie Patterson who in the late 50’s was a great pioneer of British blues when she sang with Chris Barber.”I worked with Ottilie over the years and got to know her quite well,”reminisces Greer.”We’d be on the phone for hours talking about blues with her actually playing the piano down the phone to me,and I had a fondess for her.She just had the blues in her soul.”
Greer also pays tribute in the liner notes to his favourite guitarists including Robben Ford.”I met him once and said.’You’re my second-favourite guitar player.’And then I said,’I’m sorry,that’s a terrible thing to say but my favourite guitar player is Ronnie Earl.’To which Robben said,’No,man,that’s a fine thing to say-he’s my favourite guitar player too!”
Greer is currently positively vibrating with enthusiasm.”You can keep playing the blues until you’re ninety, as long as you don’t keel over,”he declares.”I have never been busier, I’m enjoying every minute and I’ve never been as interested in music or as motivated”. Trevor Hodgett