Saturday, February 16, 2008

Raisin’ A Ruckus reviewed by David Stine

Raisin’ A Ruckus
Roomful of Blues
Alligator Records

The 13th album from Rhode Island’s Roomful of Blues features new vocalist Dave Howard along with stalwarts Chris Vachon, Rich Lataille, Bob Enos, Ephraim Lowell, Dimitry Gorodetsky, Mark Early, and Travis Colby. Dave Howard may disappoint fans of Mark DuFrense. I’m not sure Howard has the range; and I think that made for some interesting song choices on Ruckus. The album kicks off with a peppy “Every Dog Has Its Day” . . . .Song two, “Lower On Your List of Priorities” is an up beat rocker penned by Howard. It’s a funny song that breaks no new ground. “Talking To You Eye To Eye” is a jazzy, swinging tune written by sax man Early that lets the horns show off a bit. “Big Mamou” (song 4) is one of those whose need here I question. Is it only to give Howard something more in his range? There are several hints at New Orleans on this disc, so maybe it’s just another subliminal finger pointed at the crescent city, who knows? But, we ask what’s the relevance to the upper eastern seaboard? “Round It Down” is a Travis Colby-penned sing-along. Song 6, “I Would Be A Sinner” moves to a New Orleans second line beat, and would be a winner except by this time I’m growing a bit weary of Howard’s vocal chops. “Black Night” has been a long-time favorite blues song of mine. To me, it captures one of the most common blues themes perfectly--aloneness. Adding this number at song 7 changes the mood, lets Chris Vachon shine on guitar, and also puts the spotlight on Howard with a so so vocal rendering. The pace picks back up with the boogie woogie piano of the Doc Pomus-penned “Boogie Woogie County Girl.” Again, solid but not outstanding. “Solid Jam” is a Chris Vachon number featuring wah wah guitar and my growing appreciation for his clever song writing. “Sweet Petite” although credited to Dave Howard and Tom Ferraro sounds like something we’ve all heard before with Howard’s broken in voice and swinging horns. “While I Can,” (song 11) is a vocal duet with Howard and Bethie Vachon (Chris’ wife) that is reminiscent of Lou Ann Barton in it’s twangy delivery. Ms. Vachon wrote the song and probably insisted on “guesting”--hey, I’m just guessing here. Sounds pretty “Texas” to me. The title tune is an instrumental swinger that is quite unmemorable. At this point the album is running out of steam for me. But what’s this?? A version of “New Orleans”! You know the one that ends Blues Brothers 2000. The one you can’t ever hear again without thinking about the collision of stars on stage? Well, here it is again and, yes, nothing was delivered. From the promise of “Every Dog . . .” we end with a Vachon love song to his wife that is features a clarinet and brings the pace too a waltz tempo. No one knew that long time trumpeter Bob Enos would pass so soon after the release of this disc, but “Life Has Been Good,” the last song is a fitting tribute to the man who gave so many years to this band. RIP, Bob.

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