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Roomful of Blues - Raisin’ A Ruckus
Alligator Records

14 songs; 53:58 minutes; Splendid
Genre: Jump blues; Big Band jazz-blues, Swing, Rock and Roll, R&B, Soul

How many bands have an absolutely perfect name? Chalk up one for sure: Roomful of Blues. Not only does one get a “room full” of sound, but a venue also gets a room full of players. I can not think of another current blues band sporting as many as eight members.

Roomful of Blues was born in Westerly, Rhode Island in 1967 when guitarist Duke Robillard and keyboardist Al Copley combined. They soon began exploring the swinging, jumping blues, R&B and jazz of the 1940s and 1950s, and added a dynamic horn section including current longest running member Rich Lataille in 1970. Robillard and Copley eventually departed, and the band’s membership has continued to change and evolve over the years with, at least, 46 Roomful of Blues members (like Lou Ann Barton, Curtis Salgado, and Sugar Ray Nocia) providing great musicianship. They joined the Alligator label in 2003 with That’s Right, which earned a Grammy nomination.

On a sad note, the second most tenured member Bob Enos, trumpet, died in his sleep in his hotel room in Douglas, Georgia, early Friday morning, January 11, 2008 of suspected heart failure. He was 60. Bob passed just four days before the release of their latest album, Raisin’ A Ruckus. Roomful had played the Douglas Country Club the previous night. The band was on its way to Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Sunday to perform on The Legendary Blues Cruise. Enos joined Roomful Of Blues in September, 1981. He appeared on every album that Roomful made apart from its first three releases, including the new CD. Roomful is continuing its current tour with former band member John Wolfe taking Enos’s place.

Since 1977 and 15 albums, the group has earned five Grammy Award nominations and a slew of other accolades, including seven Blues Music Awards (with the nod for Blues Band of the Year in 2005). With a non-stop performance and touring schedule for almost 40 years, Roomful of Blues has earned critical, popular and radio success and a legion of fans around the globe.

Currently an eight-piece unit led by guitarist Chris Vachon, singer Dave Howard took over the singing duties in 2007, bringing his wonderfrully gritty and soulful vocals. New members are bassist Dima Gorodetsky and drummer Ephraim Lowell joining long-time members keyboardist Travis Colby, baritone and tenor saxophonist Mark Earley, and tenor and alto saxophonist Rich Lataille.

Raisin’ A Ruckus brings plenty of variety to the table with originals and covers, opening with full horns on “Every Dog Has His Day.” A catchy, upbeat horn-hook of pom-pom---pumpa-pompa-pom kicks off with Vachon providing guitar counter-point rhythm. 22 seconds in, they are joined by Howard’s deep vocals over rat-a-tat drums and bottom organ and bass. At one minute, the saxophone takes a 25 second solo followed by Vachon on a 15 second screaming guitar solo. The song only logs 2:39 in length, but in that time hearts are jumping, and we get an idea what an tight-and-right eight piece unit can do.

Guitar freaks fear not: “Round It Down” opens with Chris Vachon on blazing six string as does “Solid Jam.” For piano fans, how about some Travis Colby boogie woogie keyboards on “Boogie Woogie Country Girl” written by Reginald Ashby and Doc Pomus. Even Gorodetsky’s bass eventually gets a brief lead helping to open the title track and taking a mid-song solo.

Some real fun is found on “Big Mamou” and the Gary U.S. Bonds Rock and Roll classic, “New Orleans”. The good times are infectious as the band members have arranged their parts to coincide and complement each other and then join in on the “Hey, hey-hey, now” chorus.

“Sweet Petite” and “Life Has Been Good” have a sound right out of the Benny Goodman big band era, “sha doo be doop, bah-dah!”

Roomful of Blues has once again excelled in recording their variety-laden horn, and guitar, fueled music for audiences around the world. Add their non-stop touring schedule, and long-time fans and new converts alike can see for themselves why this group consistently receives nominations and wins awards.

Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL

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