Roomful of Blues
Under One Roof
Bullseye Blues 9569
Indeed, Roomful is a potent line-up, fronted by Sugar Ray Norcia on vocals and harmonica. And Under One Roof does strive to give its listeners a sampling of a wide spectrum of blues styles: Included are shuffles, slow blues, minor blues, swing tunes, etc., all done with the polish and panache of one of the blues world's most venerable ensembles.
But what distinguishes Roomful of Blues from everyone else? It's that wailing horn section that's a permanent, touring part of the band. So it's not surprising that the most intriguing material either showcases the Roomful Horns or allows them to make an essential supporting contribution. For example, countless guitar players in barrooms across America could handle "We B 3," a Chris Vachon guitar trio instrumental that owes very heavily to the Earl King/Jimi Hendrix/Stevie Ray Vaughan workout, "Come On (Part I)." And there are quite a few harp guys out there who know their way around a chromatic harp well enough to pull off Norcia's fine riffs on the loping "Let Me Live."
But where else are you going to hear that horn attitude on swingin' grooves such as "Smack Dab in the Middle," "Switchin' in the Kitchen" or the instrumental "Q's Blues"? The latter, written by Roomful trombonist Carl Querfurth, is reminiscent of those ultra-cool Henry Mancini spy instrumentals. Fun stuff! In more of a supporting role, the horns kick in wicked accents on tunes like "Standing Here at Crossroads," "Farmer John" (where they carry a frantic double-time octave phrase) and the Louisiana-styled "Rogue Elephant."
The last word on Under One Roof: Roomful still has something no one else has, and this release won't let you forget that. It's diverse enough, stylistically and instrumentally, to have a broader appeal beyond the limits of the blues audience, as well. Maybe that's how they can afford to keep nine people on the road. Who knows? But here's hoping they can keep doing it for as long as they want to.
-- Bryan Powell