Rhode Island-based Sugar Ray Norcia started the popular East Coast blues band The Bluetones with guitarist Ronnie Earl in 1979 and backed Big Walter Horton, Big Joe Turner, Jimmie Rogers, Otis Rush, JB Hutto and countless others in the early '80s, all over the Northeast.

In the 1990s, Norcia spent seven high-profile years as lead singer of the legendary Roomful of Blues. He cut five albums with the group including one with a Best Traditional Blues Grammy nod. He continues to tour the world with his durable Bluetones, making acclaimed albums and getting lovers of Chicago-style blues up on their dancing feet.

Norcia has appeared on nearly 50 albums including the 1999 Best Traditional Blues Grammy-nominated "Superharps" collaboration with fellow harmonica virtuosos James Cotton, Charlie Musselwhite and Billy Branch. He has said he came to the blues harp of necessity, as the harmonica player in one of his early bands kept skipping gigs. He began writing his own songs of necessity too, when record companies balked at acquiring rights.

Norcia’s élan and robust tone — inspiration for the “Sugar” — makes his voice one of the most distinctive, well-defined and recognizable instruments in modern blues … and also makes his side project, The Sugar Ray Norcia Big Band, a natural. But it is his down-and-dirty, nitty-gritty harmonica that keeps the Bluetones on the roots map and then some. The band’s 2007 album “My Life, My Friends, My Music” garnered Blues Music Awards nominations for Album of the Year, Instrumentalist — Harmonica, Instrumentalist — Bass and “Song of the Year.”

The outfit’s latest album is “Evening,” a 2012 BMA nominee for Album of the Year. In addition to Norcia on vocals and harmonica, The Bluetones lineup features Michael “Mudcat” Ward on bass, Anthony Geraci on keyboards, Neil Gouvin on drums and “Monster” Mike Welch on guitar and vocals.