Roomful of Blues stays retro in the 21st century
ROOMFUL OF BLUES Hook, Line & Sinker (Alligator)
As Alligator Records celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, the Chicago blues label continues its relationship with a band that predates the label’s existence by a few years. Roomful of Blues, already a couple of years into its fifth decade, has shuffled its lineup many times but has kept its jump blues style a constant.
Hook, Line & Sinker, the New England band’s fourth release for Alligator, adheres to that recipe, reviving vintage material by such stalwarts as Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown (“She Walks Right In,” the instrumental “Gate Walks to Board”), Lieber & Stoller (“It”) and Dave Bartholomew/Earl King (the title track.) Singer Phil Pemberton upholds the blues shouter tradition while bandleader/producer Chris Vachon peppers the horn-drenched songs with his understated guitar, adding just the right amount of sting.
DENNIS TAYLOR Steppin’ Up (Kizybosh)
Tenor saxophone player Dennis Taylor spent much of his career backing other musicians, most recently singer Delbert McClinton. Sadly, he didn’t live to see the release of his solo debut, a collection of deep-grooving instrumentals that pairs him with McClinton bandmate and co-producer Kevin McKendree on Hammond B-3 organ and presents ample evidence of Taylor’s big, bluesy tone.
With the help of drummers Kenneth Blevins, Chester Thompson and Lynn Williams, who appear on various cuts, Taylor and McKendree present a diverse set of songs that traverse jazz and R&B, digging into material by Isaac Hayes (“Café Regio’s”), Dr. John (“I Walk on Gilded Splinters”), the Beatles (“And I Love Her”), Ray Charles (“Hallelujah I Love Her So”) and Percy Mayfield (“The River’s Invitation”). The set, which includes six Taylor originals, features a vocal turn from McClinton on the ballad “Since I Fell For You.”
PETE ANDERSON Even Things Up: Deluxe Edition (Little Dog Records)
Usually the label “Deluxe Edition” refers to the reissue of a classic album. With Pete Anderson’s Even Things Up, it instead signifies giving a bigger push to a recent album. The guitarist, singer and songwriter, best known for his long-time collaboration with country maverick Dwight Yoakam, first released this collection of roots music in 2009 in limited release. The new version adds four tracks to the original 12.
It’s a bluesy blast of a good time. Anderson may be singing about a “Honky Tonk Girl” on the leadoff track, but the song rides on a traditional shuffle beat dressed up with a hint of organ. There’s plenty of Anderson’s powerful lead guitar work: Witness the extended solo on the end of the title track and the Latin-flavored instrumental “Wes’ Side Blues” or his greasy slide solos on “That’s How Trouble Starts.” And Anderson has a knack for writing hook-filled songs. “Room With a View” recalls the cool sensibility and lyrical bent of Steely Dan.