Why is it that blues guitarists these days can sound as stiff and cold as a plate of day-old scrambled eggs? Ronnie Baker Brooks doesn't have to bother pondering the issue. Come to think of it, neither do you when he's in the house. I got the skee-uhls to pay the bee-uhls, he proclaims on his latest album, The Torch. Talk is cheap, but you can't put a price on the record's expert production values, which bring together elements of blues, rock, funk and soul with a vintage touch and a fresh twist. And Brooks, for all his boasting, knows how to conquer with restraint. Rather than burn up the fretboard or solo predictably, he pours his soul into his rocked-up rhythms and lets the band swagger along until the heat builds and it's time to hit the high notes.