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Hook, Line & Sinker

Roomful of Blues

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Album Review

Roomful of Blues have been playing their blistering take on the jump blues for over 35 years and through numerous personnel changes. Only saxman Rich Lataille is left from the band's best-known lineup, and even he joined after Roomful of Blues had been playing beer joints for three years, but their sound still remains as rough and tough as ever and that's a good thing indeed. On Hook, Line & Sinker they're doing what they've always done, and as the provocative album cover suggests, they remain capable of delivering a platter full of sly, sexy stompers. There aren't any originals this time around; instead they trot out a bunch of juke joint classics and infuse them with their own special brand of soulful grit. Chris Vachon's slinky guitar pulls you into the opener, "That's a Pretty Good Love," a tune made popular by Big Maybelle. Vachon's long, serpentine solo complements the song's smoldering message. Vocalist Phil Pemberton shines on "Kill Me," with a soulful, growling vocal worthy of the Don & Dewey original, while he shows off his tender side on Floyd Dixon's "Time Brings About a Change," which features an intricate late-night piano solo by Travis Colby. But like all good Roomful albums, it's the uptempo numbers that really make you want to hit the replay button. Vachon lets loose on the smokin' instrumental "Gate Walks to Board," then steps aside to let Lataille, Mark Earley, and trumpeter Doug Woolverton trade wailing solos. They play the bouncy title track, a tune by Dave Bartholomew/Pearl King that Smiley Lewis had a hit on, with the pedal to the metal. Gatemoth Brown's "She Walks Right In" gets the full jump blues treatment, with John Turner's acoustic bass pushing the band into overdrive and the horn section wailing like a chorus of desperate drunks at closing time on Saturday night. ~ j. poet, Rovi

Customer Reviews

A new highlight for a veteran band

This is a wonderful selection of classics and near-classics. Lots of great singing, very strong musicianship, and most of all, tons of fun.

A highlight is “Time Brings About a Change,” a slow-tempo soulful thing in which Phil Pemberton’s supple voice gives the band’s great musicians enough room to make this tune a sweet experience for every second. Every solo and every fill in this song is a pleasure to behold. Other favorites are the toe-tapping “She Walks Right in,” a frenetic “Gate Walks to the Board,” and a driving “It.” But in truth, the weaker songs are so only in comparison; there are no clunkers here.

For veteran Roomful fans, Pemberton’s high range may take some getting used to. but he’s definitely got the chops to pull it off. The band is in great form, and it all works - here on the album, as well as in concert.

Quite possibly Roomful’s best CD since joining the Alligator family in 2003

These swinging and swaying 12 songs will put you “in the mood” from start to finish. Sure, they are all cover songs taken from the band’s extensive repertoire, but you’ll have to be a musicologist to recognize them.

This 40-minute disc features new bass player John Turner and new trumpeter Doug Woolverton, but the most obvious newcomer is singer Phil Pemberton. His huge voice is a mix between Curtis Salgado, Roy Brown, Wynonie Harris, and Big Joe Turner. Pemberton comes across as if he has been the band’s main vocal and focal point for several years. His emotive vocals will have you personally experiencing the discomfort of the main character’s loneliness on Ain’t Nothin’ Happenin’. The New Orleans sounding Come On Home reveals Pemberton can reverberate as strong and loud as the band’s stomping three-piece horn section. Time Brings About A Change is a ballad which allows the flamboyant Pemberton to stretch his multi octave and ultra-expressive vocals.

Romping horns rumble and rattle on That’s A Pretty Good Love, where Chris Vachon’s enthusiastic guitar riffs are at the center of the song. In fact, Vachon is given more opportunity than in the past to showcase what he can do with six strings, e.g., Win With Me, Baby throughout the disc.

The CD’s strength, and in fact the eight-member group’s greatest asset, is how well the band performs as a cohesive unit. Throughout, the horns hop, the keyboards sway, the vocals enthuse, the guitar rocks, and the band jumps. Roomful’s signature sound runs rampant on Hook, Line & Sinker which plays like a tribute to the best swinging tunes from the ’40s and ’50s. Every song is good, but when those songs are performed by this venerable band, the combined outcome is a transcended musical experience that is both nostalgic and avant-garde at the same time.


Good stuff


Formed: 1967 in Providence, RI

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Over the course of their decades-long existence, Roomful of Blues effectively became a franchise unto themselves, built more on a brand-name collective identity than on the voices of the myriad individual members who kept the band a smoothly humming machine. Describing Roomful of Blues that way, however, gives short shrift to the many accomplished musicians who have emerged from the band's ranks over the years: guitarists Duke Robillard and Ronnie Earl, organist Ron Levy, pianist Al Copley, singer...
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