Waking the dead

Café R&B

Café R&B

Photo By Jill Martin

Café R&B hails from Southern California yet considers playing up in this area just part of the job, kind of like an L.A. gig. The band performed at a beer release party in Sierra Nevada Brewery’s taproom about a year-and-a-half ago—it was a killer show, just ask anyone who was there—and are flying up now to play the Big Room.

Inspired by Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon—to name a few—Café R&B gives its own unique interpretations of classic blues as well as offering up their own fascinating originals, most of them written by guitarist Byl Carruthers. Carruthers, his wife, Roach, and drummer Stephen Klong are the core that’s been together 10 years. Rounding out the group are keyboardist John Thomas, who gives both his piano and Hammond B-3 (he’ll be using the brewery’s refurbished unit) a stupendous workout, and bassist Bobby Pickett, who holds down the bottom.

The guys wear black suits and, while they may look like morticians, they produce enough energy to wake the dead. This is a very tight band that performs with power and precision, with Roach’s raw vocals and lively stage presence adding just the right touch. When they go into Wolf’s “Killing Floor,” look out! I’ve seen them twice and can’t recommend them too highly and, lest you think my praise is just hype, here’s what Buddy Guy had to say about Roach and the band: “Cafe R&B came to Chicago and tore the place up.”