Brooks will bring his band to The Minnesota Music Café, 499 Payne Ave. in St. Paul, on Friday July 29. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $18 in advance and $25 at the door.
As the son of blues legend Lonnie Brooks, Ronnie Baker Brooks grew up steeped in tradition. He came of age watching the fieriest guitar players and most soulful singers of a previous era express their deepest feelings through their music. As in the Olympic tradition, when the torch gets passed on, the idea is to keep it burning, while at the same time move it forward. It’s a fitting image for Brooks. Not only does he sing with soulful fire and play with a white-hot intensity; he’s also carrying the torch from the previous generation of soul and blues greats and moving the music into the future.
“I grew up among the best of the best,” said Brooks. “Every time I play, I feel like I’ve got to do it with the authenticity and passion that I saw in guys like Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and my father. But I also have to put my twist on it. None of those guys repeated what came before them.”
Brooks’ twist involves enlivening blues-rock with deep soul and modern hip-hop vocals and funk rhythms. Working with Minneapolis producer Jellybean Johnson (the original drummer of The Time), Brooks takes roots sounds and transforms them into something that spans the ages. He draws on the choppy, hip-shaking rhythms of funk, the emotional truth of soul and the forcefulness of rock to bring a distinctive dimension to his groundbreaking sound.
“I wanted to do something that would bring young people to the blues, and then give them the real hardcore thing at the same time,” said Brooks. “When I grew up, all my friends listened to rap and funk, and I listened to the blues. So I heard their music and they heard mine. I think we both saw some connection between them. I like that line in the movie ‘Hustle & Flow’ when they say this new rap song ain’t nothing but ‘Backdoor Man’ written for modern streets. It’s a hip-hop world right now, but I want to bring a little blues to the party.”
Brooks solo debut, 1998’s “Gold Digger” was named Best New Blues Album by Real Blues Magazine. With the release of his second album, 2001’s “Take Me Witcha,” Brooks hit the road for what turned out to be a seemingly non-stop three-year tour. In 2006 he released “The Torch,” which the Boston Herald declared “ferocious and unrelenting and may be the year’s best blues album.”