Review: Roomful Of Blues – Hook, Line & Sinker

Posted on: Sunday, Jan 30, 2011

“Hook, Line & Sinker”
(Alligator Records: ALCD 4941)

Formed by Duke Robillard and Al Copley in Westerly, Rhode Island to reproduce the jump blues of the 40s and 50s, way back in 1967, Roomful Of Blues have become one of the most loved blues bands in the world, with their legendary swinging horn section – which was added to the band in 1970, and still features Rich Lataille on tenor and alto saxophone. Apart from the afore-mentioned Duke Robillard, the great Ronnie Earl held the guitar duties in the band, now more than capably led by current guitarist Chris Vachon, who joined in 1996.

After over 43 years, and 50-odd members the band are as popular as ever, and this, their fourth release for Alligator, introduces new vocalist Phil Pemberton, whose soulful voice is ideally suited to the material here from the likes of Little Richard, Dave Bartholomew, Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown, Floyd Dixon and more. As well as Vachon, Pemberton and Lataille,  the current line-up features Mark Earley (tenor and baritone saxophone), Doug Woolverton (trumpet), Travis Colby (piano and Hammond B3), John Turner (upright bass) and Ephraim Lovell (drums).

The band are off to a flyer with a cracking “That’s A Pretty Good Love”, with some slippery guitar leads from Chris Vachon and Phil Pemberton’s superb voice; the horns swing like crazy on the oft-covered Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown song, “She Walks Right In” . . . just tailor-made for the joyous sound the band produce here. The title cut, “Hook, Line & Sinker” is a soulful romp penned by New Orleans legends Dave Bartholomew and Earl King, and is highlighted by a couple of great solos form the horn section.

Don & Dewey’s “Kill Me” is a gem from their Specialty days of the late 50s, and features some more stinging leads from Chris Vachon, who playing is very impressive throughout the whole album; the breakneck instrumental “Gate Walks To Board”, a ‘Gatemouth’ Brown co-write,  fairly races out the blocks, with Vachon again taking the plaudits and mention here for the driving rhythm section of John Turner and Ephraim Lovell – more swinging solos here for the brass too.

The pace is taken down somewhat on Amos Milburn’s “Juice, Juice, Juice” – an ode to the demon drink and its effect on his lady – with Pemberton’s multi-octave voice on top form. The band return to the swinging, jumping blues on “Ain’t Nothin’ Happenin'”, with brilliant trumpet solo from Doug Woolverton and some fine piano from Travis Colby. The blues of Don Robey’s “Win With Me Baby” is a definite highlight . . . some glorious fluid leads from Chris Vachon, Colby’s sparkling piano and easy-on-the-ear vocal from Pemberton . . . just perfect!

The band turn Leiber & Stoller’s “It” into a funky rumba, before more vocal dynamite from Phil Pemberton on the superb “Come On Home”, with dynamic drum work from Lovell. This  top release ends with a jazzy take on Floyd Dixon and James Flemings “Time Brings About A Winner”, with Travis Colby on some tasteful Hammond B3; and the closing “Just A Little Love” bringing a joyous finale to a highly recommended release from a band, who at 43 years plus, are even older than their label – as Alligator is about to celebrate 40 years.


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