Speaking about his debut album, “Here I Come,” guitarist Jose Ramirez explained, “I wanted to make a blues album influenced by both soul and R&B musicians such as Ray Charles, Teddy Pendergrass and Al Green, with a Little Johnny Guitar Watson in there as well.”
Capitalizing on the momentum he acquired after his second-place finish at the 2020 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, where he was representing The D.C Blues Society (Ramirez has since relocated to Florida) and his home country of Costa Rica, Ramirez teamed up with blues guitar legend & producer Anson Funderburgh to record this studio album. Funderburgh brought Ramirez to Wire studios in Austin Texas teaming up with Grammy-winning engineer Stuart Sullivan. They assembled the crack team of studio players for the sessions including Jim Pugh on piano and organ, drummer Wes Starr and bass man Nate Rowe, and the legendary Texas Horns, with Funderburgh lending his guitar skills on a couple of tracks. The nine original compositions showcase Ramirez’s songwriting ability as well as his personal style on two select covers.
Ramirez opens the set by going to the source on the title track, ‘Here I Come,’ a hard-driving blues shuffle, in which he name checks the heroes who showed him where his place in the world should be. The horn section steps in on the sweet swinging ballad, ‘I Miss You Baby,’ forming a melodic bed that allows him to stretch out with his voice and his guitar on the T-Bone Walker classic from the early ‘50s. Funderburgh delivers some icepick lead guitar on the saucy ‘Gasoline And Matches.’ Ramirez plays the tough guy on the edgy ‘One Woman Man’ and delivers some fine guitar playing of his own on the radio ready track with Pugh sneaking in a tribute to Cuban piano legend, Chucho Valdés, on the outro.
Stellar piano opens the slinky ‘Goodbye Letter’ and the horn-driven love song, ‘The Way You Make Me Feel,’ is a sweet dish of Memphis soul stew, while the slow-burning drag shuffle, ‘Three Years,’ is a tasty helping of deep blues. The fine articulate horn arrangement helps Ramirez ramp up the drama on the soul ballad, ‘As You Can See,’ and Pugh layers in lush Hammond B3 on the Hi Records styled R&B groover ‘Waiting For Your Call.’
The genius of Robert Johnson songs is that they allow for limitless interpretations. Ramirez takes full advantage of this on his funky, slow, and soulful rendition of ‘Traveling Riverside Blues,’ giving new emphasis to several lyrical phrases, thus creating a new point of view for an 80-year old tune. He bookends the album by closing with another driving shuffle, ‘Stop Teasing Me,’ showing us that this young man from Central America knows how to play the blues.
Ramirez is a dynamic performer and “Here I Come” will solidify him as a recording artist with a future in the world of blues.
Rick J Bowen