Boston-based blues-guitar virtuoso Ronnie Earl seems to be considering his past on his 23rd album as a leader. As on 2007's Hope Radio
, Earl returns to the all-instrumental format that — along with his beatific tone, impeccable phrasing, and wildly emotive instincts — helps set him apart from the genre's six-string pack. As the album unreels, he revisits several of his influences, starting with Albert Collins's prickly "Backstroke" and Kenny Burrell's jazz-blues swinger "Chitlins Con Carne." He pays tribute to the late Muddy Waters Band pianist Otis Spann on "Spann's Groove," (which was written by and showcases Broadcasters keyboardist Dave Limina); he resurrects his own "Skyman," a soaring, contemplative trip into the stylistic realm of Duane Allman that first appeared on 1996's Grateful Heart: Blues & Ballads
. Earl's slow, sweet-toned "Eleventh Step to Heaven" alludes to his spiritual quest and experience with addiction recovery. It's Spread the Love
's centerpiece, with the album's most epic, moving performances, sandwiched between the crying, testifying "Tommy's Midnight Blues" and "Ethan's Song," an elegant shuffle that walks a high wire between jazz and blues with smoky élan. The acoustic finale, "Blues for Bill," has the flavor of the Delta's red dust; it makes this blues odyssey complete.
RONNIE EARL AND THE BROADCASTERS | Regent Theatre, 7 Medford St, Arlington | September 11 at 8 pm | all ages | $28-$38 | 781.646.4849 or regentthreatre.com