While Memphis and Chicago can rightly boast of their connections to the blues, for the past few decades the East Coast has been a prolific breeding ground in itself. Players such as Duke Robillard and Jimmy Thacker, as well as legendary bands that include Roomful of Blues and the Nighthawks came up in the Boston-to-D.C. area. Harmonica player and singer Sugar Ray Norcia is a veteran of this scene as both sideman and bandleader, and he's one of the strongest talents to emerge from these parts. Gifted with a throwback vocal style that would have fit on a 1950s record, Norcia's connection to the blues sounds authentic and personal. He's no slouch on the harp either.
Norcia formed the Bluetones in 1979 with guitar ace Ronnie Earl. Various personnel flips between the Bluetones, Roomful of Blues, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds landed Norcia as Roomful's singer in 1991. His six-year stint with them included four albums and a Grammy nomination. The 2003 Bluetones feature former Boston blues wonder-kid "Monster" Mike Welch on guitar. Their recent self-titled release shows that they write the blues as well as they play them.