45 Live & What’s the Chance

Gee, how time flies when you’re having fun. Can it really be 46 years since Roomful of Blues came on the scene? Eighteen albums and a dozen or so personnel changes later, the band’s still playing the kind of blues and R&B that’s kept them busy all these years. For 45 Live—which they recorded at the Ocean Mist, a Rhode Island club—Chris Vachon, the band’s leader/guitarist, went back through their catalog and chose 14 numbers. Among the highlights are “I Left My Baby,” their tribute to longtime Count Basie Orchestra vocalist Jimmy Rushing; “Crawdad Hole,” from the 1983 session on which they backed up Big Joe Turner; alto-saxist Rich Lataille’s jazzed-up “Straight Jacquet,” (a nod to tenorman Illinois Jacquet) and Vachon’s steamy solo on Magic Sam’s “Easy Baby.” The band’s horn section and its founder, guitarist Duke Robillard, also found time to back up Paul Gabriel—“a distinctive, bluesy guitarist,” as he’s been described—on What’s the Chance. Translation: more pop than blues here. The bluesy opening track features some solid guitar by Robillard and the horn section riffing like there’s no tomorrow, a tactic employed on several selections. Gabriel wrote all but two songs, judging from which he’s got some serious women problems. So-so vocalizing, offset by Gabriel’s heartfelt songs and fine playing.