Severn Records Signs Blues Artists Bryan Lee & Ursula Ricks
David Earl, president of Severn Records, has announced the signing of New Orleans-based blues guitarist/singer Bryan Lee and Baltimore-based soul and blues singer Ursula Ricks to the label. Both artists are recording albums at Severn’s new state-of-the-art studios in Annapolis for release later this year. Severn Records is distributed in the U.S. by City Hall Records.
Although raised in a small Wisconsin town near the shores of Lake Michigan, Bryan Lee has been a New Orleans resident since 1982, so much so that he’s been called a “New Orleans Blues Institution;” and is also known as the “Braille Blues Daddy,” dubbed so because he’s been blind since the age of eight. Eric Clapton called Bryan Lee “one of the best bluesmen I have ever heard.” He's played the prestigious New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival over 25 years and his new Severn CD will be his debut for an American label, with previous albums appearing on the Canadian imprint, Justin Time.
Bryan Lee’s new album was produced by Kevin Anker, David Earl and Steve Gomes, with Lee backed by the illustrious Severn House Band of Kevin Anker (keyboards), Steve Gomes (bass), Johnny Moeller (guitar) and Robb Stupka (drums). The new disc is a mix of originals and covers of Bobby Womack’s “When Love Begins Friendship Ends,” Howlin Wolf’s “Evil” (with a guest harmonica performance by Kim Wilson) and a beautiful rendition of the George Jackson classic, “Aretha Play One for Me.”
“We are thrilled to have Bryan Lee as part of the Severn family of artists,” said David Earl. “He is a consummate professional and has had a long recording career. The process of recording this album has opened new musical doors for Bryan and Severn. We look forward to working with him for a long time.”
Growing up, Lee listened to clear channel station WLAC in Nashville and became enamored with the sound of the blues he heard on the radio. By the time he was 15, Lee was playing guitar in a variety of rock and blues-rock bands, and in his late teens he befriended legendary guitar slinger Luther Allison. In 1981, Lee and his band opened for Muddy Waters at Summerfest in Milwaukee, and he got a chance to talk with his hero backstage. After Lee told Muddy how honored he was to be opening for such a legend, Waters told the youngster, “Bryan, stay with this. One day you’re going to be a living legend.” Those words of encouragement have become an inspiration to Bryan Lee throughout his career.
Bryan Lee’s recognition in the Crescent City began in 1982 with a long residency at the Old Absinthe House in the French Quarter. One of the formative blues guitarists who caught his act was a young Kenny Wayne Shepherd, whose time sitting in with Lee’s band proved to be a revelatory experience for him. Many years later, Shepherd would return the favor by including Lee in his documentary, 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads.
Lee, whose New Orleans studio became a victim of Hurricane Katrina’s wrath, was later nominated for a Blues Music Award for his Katrina Was Her Name CD. For more on Bryan, visit http://www.braillebluesdaddy.com.
For Baltimore’s own Ursula Ricks, this Severn Records release will be her debut album. Ursula’s new CD was also produced by the Severn team of Kevin Anker, David Earl and Steve Gomes and features her bluesy, soulful vocals backed by Kevin Anker (keyboards), Steve Gomes (bass), Johnny Moeller (guitar) and Robb Stupka (drums). Kim Wilson is a special guest, adding his harmonica talents on the original track, “Tobacco Road.”
Ursula Ricks’ new album includes eight original songs, as well as her unique interpretations of songs by Bobby Rush (”Mary Jane” - a very funky/soul version) and Curtis Mayfield’s “Just a Little Bit of Love.”
“Ursula's unique vision and vocal ability made recording her debut album a real pleasure,” said David Earl. “Like any seasoned pro, she knows what she wants to hear. Ursula has flown under the radar for so long. We are excited that the world will finally get an opportunity to experience her incredible music.”
Ursula Ricks fell in love with the blues listening to her mom sing in the living room, and she wrote her first song at the age of 16. In her early twenties, she formed an all-female band, began writing original music and playing in local clubs. She was later introduced to and educated further in the art of blues music by the players who came into perform at a local club called the Full Moon Saloon. She called her band “Ursula Ricks Project,” for all the players she has been fortunate to share the stage with. Ursula has opened for Johnny Lang in Baltimore and even played the very first annual Baltimore Blues Festival. She has been playing along the East Coast from New York to Florida for over 20 years and has played with some of the best artists alive.