THE BLUE WAVE is a meat- and-potatoes rock and roll movement firmly rooted in the bare-knuckled urban blues traditions of Chicago and Texas. Its banner is carried locally by the Nighthawks and nationally by such folks as George Thorogood, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Roomful of Blues. Until recently, Ronnie Earl was Roomful's guitarist, and that group's horn players spice up several cuts on his aptly titled debut album, "Smokin'."
Backed by the Broadcasters, Earl wisely lets the spotlight rest on his Fender Stratocaster, which plows ecstatically through the high-velocity country shuffle of "Ronnie Johnnie," and drips acidic tears on the slow, smoldering "Baby Doll Blues." Earl's guitar heroes range from T-Bone Walker and Guitar Slim to Magic Sam, and he pays homage to them on such tunes as Howlin' Wolf's chugging "Ridin' in the Moonlight," Gatemouth Brown's sly "She Winked Her Eye" and Brook Benton's cautious "I'll Take Care of You." Yet he remains very much his own man, eliciting an astounding variety of muscular tones and textures without ever abandoning his tub-thumping blues base. Sugar Blue and Kim Wilson share vocal and harmonica duty, but it's Earl whose sweat and uncompromised passion let the album live up to its name. RONNIE EARL & THE BROADCASTERS -- "Smokin' " (Black Top BT-1023); appearing Friday at the Wax Museum on Friday.