Now here's a young man - that is, he's as old as I am - with a great debut album, SUDDENLY, on Leon Haywood's Evejim label. Ronnie is one of those traditional southern voices with a very soulful and masculine tone, and this eight-track set gives you four beautiful, poignant ballads (Suddenly, I Miss Her, I'm Leaving, This Is The Last Time) - plain and simple, emotive and touching, not unlike what Bobby Bland used to do. And, by the way, vocally Ronnie reminds me of Bobby, especially on the first single, I Miss Her.
The rest of the material consists of a relaxed and catchy midtempo bouncer (Giving My Love To The Other Man), two stereo-typed and to these ears a bit boring funk tracks (I Still Love You, Miss Rudolph) and one blues-based swayer (Going Back To My Wife).
But who is this Ronnie? When out of nowhere comes a guy with an album of this calibre, there's enough cause for you to hunt him down. And that's what we did.
Soul Express: Let's start with your biographical data.
Ronnie: I was born in 1950 in Alabama, in a small town called Wetumpka, about 60 miles north from Montgomery.
Soul Express: And is Lovejoy your real name?
Ronnie: Lovejoy, yes.
Soul Express: What were your main musical influences at the time?
Ronnie: My mother. She used to sing gospel in a choir. And I had an uncle who'd play piano, and when I was a young child he taught me a lot. We used to play together.
Soul Express: When did you start taking music seriously?
Ronnie: I've taken music seriously all my life, but I've never done educational part of it, you know, like reading music, but music's always been my life.
Soul Express: When did you get into music more or less professionally?
Ronnie: In high school. I started playing with different bands and making money from it. I would be in school but I would play in bands with professional people that would do night-club acts. Sometimes on weekends I would do things with them.
After school I've been professional the whole time. I've played in a group called Sound To Soul in Boston, and when I came back to Alabama I played with King Thad & The Untouchables, they became pretty famous.
Soul Express: Have you played in any other well-known band?
Ronnie: At the time I played with so many different bands, but fortunately I met Benny Latimore and started playing with him. I used to play back-up keyboards and I used to sing with Benny, and that was about three years ago.
Soul Express: Do you have any gospel influences, besides your mother, of course?
Ronnie: I used to play organ in church and I used to be a choir director in Wetumpka.
Soul Express: Have you made any records before Evejim?
Ronnie: I made one record. It was called 'You're America, You're Mine', but we never distributed it. I did it with a young lady, a musical director of Tuskegee Hospital, Alabama, and I wrote the song. I think it was in '82 or '84. It was on her label called the Kiss label.
I had written a poem, and everybody thought the poem was really pretty and they said 'why don't you make a record of it, it's really beautiful'. So I just made a song out of the poem.
Soul Express: When did you leave Alabama for LA?
Ronnie: That was about three years ago. I came to see if I could get a record deal or something. Before that I was all the time in Alabama.
Soul Express: How did you meet Mr. Leon Haywood?
Ronnie: I met one of his artists about four years ago, Little Joe Blue. He came to Alabama and he wanted a back-up group for him. I got to play with his group, and we hit it up pretty good, because both of us were singers.
He told me that whenever I came to L.A. to look for Leon Haywood, because he probably would be interested. About three years ago I came out this way and I just gave it a shot to talk to Leon, and from there things started happening.
Soul Express: Your own opinion about your debut album?
Ronnie: I think it's a very good album. It's not just in one bag, it's got a lot of variety. I've tried to put as much my own personality and soulfulness as I can into it.
Soul Express: What's your own favourite tune on that album?
Ronnie: Giving My Love To The Other Man, I like that very much.
Soul Express: You seem to like ballads a lot?
Ronnie: I love ballads, but basically I try to write what the producer wants. At first we wanted to go for strictly blues, but he (Leon) wanted to diversify it, and I tried to write the way he wanted the songs to go.
Soul Express: You seem to be a busy composer, because on your debut you've written all the tunes. Have you written anything for other artists?
Ronnie: I've written about six or seven songs for Buddy Ace.
Soul Express: Yes, I heard from Mr. Haywood, that the next Evejim album is going to be by Buddy Ace. (I also heard, that Leon is not planning to do anything on himself at the moment).
Ronnie: I wrote most of the songs for that album.
Soul Express: How is your album selling at the moment?
Ronnie: From what I've heard already, it's doing very well, mostly in Southern parts of the USA.
Soul Express: And it's rated very high in Europe in deep soul circles.
Ronnie: Is that so? I've been interested in getting to Europe, because a lot of artists have told me that my kind of music is very popular over there.
Soul Express: What about the singles from the album?
Ronnie: The first single was 'I Miss Her', and the last time we talked, Leon was thinking about releasing a new single, because a lot of people are asking basically for one song, and a lot of DJ's want to get on with one song.
Soul Express: What about your future plans?
Ronnie: They are basically to record as much as possible, and I hope my songs keep selling so that people would get to know me and I'd get exposure.
Soul Express: Who are your own favourite artist?
Ronnie: Z.Z. Hill, Bobby Bland, Luther Vandross, Johnnie Taylor.
Soul Express: By the way, your record reminds me very much of Bobby Bland, especially the first single.
Ronnie: Really? Well, lot of people have told me that.
Soul Express: And your plans are to stay on Evejim?
Ronnie: At the present, yes.
So there, LOVE 'n' enJOY. And buy the album!