In A Roomful of Blues
Roomful Of Blues, the perennial blues band was first started in 1967; fifty-three years ago. Begun by Rhode Island teens that shared a passion for straight ahead Chicago-style electric blues, they added a horn section in 1970. They released their debut album in 1977 and have since undergone numerous personnel changes. The eight-piece band boasts forty-eight alumni including many whom now enjoy successful careers on their own.
Their current lineup is one of their best as they sound as fresh and as strong as ever. For the past twenty-two years they have been led by guitarist Chris Vachon who first joined in 1990. The award winning horn section, led by original member saxophonist Rich Latille, has ten BMA nominations having won each year from 2001 through 2005. They are joined by vocalist Phil Pemberton who joined in 2010 and are rounded out by saxophonist Alex Razdan; trumpeter Carl “Geerz” Gerhard; keyboardist Rusty Scott; and the rhythm section of bassist John Turner, and drummer Chris Anzalone.
This is Roomful of Blues’ twentieth studio album and fifth for Alligator Records. This is the band’s first studio recording since 2011’s “Hook, Line & Sinker”, and first album since 2013’s “45 Live!”. “In A Roomful Of Blues” was produced by Vachon and recorded at studios in Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Just when you thought they may have lost a step they include thirteen masterful tracks. “Roomful” opens with “What Can I Do?” written by John Brown and Don Robey and first recorded by Buddy Ace in 1961. The only other cover is the fabulous “Too Much Boogie” written and recorded by Doc Pomus in 1990.
More importantly are the ten band composed originals. Eight of these were written or co-written by guitarist Vachon; “You Move Me” with vocalist Pemberton, and five written with backing singer Bob Moulton including the hilarious “Phone Zombies”; “Let The Sleeping Dog Lie”, and the smokin’ ballad “She Quit Me Again” with some great piano from Scott. The title track and “We’d Have A Love Sublime” are both all Vachon; who takes some really tasteful guitar solos throughout the recording. As always the horn section led by Latille is unusually tight as newcomers Razdan and Gerhard prove themselves up to the task. Razdan, also a fine songwriter, contributes the rollicking closer “I Can’t Wait”.
I have seen “Roomful of Blues” several times during the last five years and was hoping that they would record again soon. “In A Roomful of Blues” exceeds all of my expectations. This is an exceptional recording.