Roomful of Blues is celebrating 50 years as a horn band. Tenor ace Rich Lataille and a couple of other horn players were added in 1970 to the smaller band that Duke Robillard founded in 1967.  Chris Vachon took over the guitar chair from Ronnie Earl in 1992 and has for some time served as bandleader, producer and principal songwriter. The other players in the current band are of much more recent vintage but the distinctive Roomful sound remains. They have added some different styles of music this time out but their position on top of the sales charts shows that listeners heartily approve. With In a Roomful of Blues being album number nineteen, the back catalogue has garnered five Grammy nominations and numerous Blues Music Awards and they’ve twice been named Blues Band of the Year by Downbeat magazine, their prominence is surely earned. Phil Pemberton has been the front man for years now, a job he obviously relishes. Starting out with some rocking Duke Records blues from Texas Johnny Brown in “What Can I Do” (including some fabulous piano from Rusty Scott), we get a sterling program of mostly originals that shows why this one is a chart topper. The title song is a Vachon original that Albert King would have been proud to record: our narrator and his partner have to do something, anything, so that they’re no longer “In a Roomful of Blues”. A grinder of a tune underlies “Phone Zombies”, a cleverly written commentary on all those people buried in their cellphones. They go to Louisiana with guest accordion player Dick Reed for “Have You Heard”, a tale about a man feeling marginalized.  “We’d Have a Love Sublime” is a slab of flat out rock ‘n’ roll with a great groove. A very good slow blues deals with a friend in chemotherapy in “Carcinoma Blues”, a major highlight. With a generous program of thirteen songs, this band looks solid for the foreseeable future for sure, go to www.roomful.com for lots more history and info.

May 2020 - John Primer & Bob Corritore