The biggest, baddest blues band in the land is back with a live recording to commemorate its 45 years as one of the top purveyors of the little big band sound of the likes of early B.B. King and the Buddy Johnson Orchestra. While it has had more turnover in membership than the French fry slot at McDonald's on a soccer Saturday, (over 50 to date including the likes of Duke Robillard, Lou Ann Barton, Curtis Salgado, Sugar Ray Norcia, Ron Levy, Al Basile, Bob Enos, Al Copley, Porky Cohen and Ronnie Earl) the band has always recruited great talent and maintained its wailing, horn-driven sound despite the tough economics of putting eight or more musicians on stage each night. This set features the current version of the band working its way through 14 cuts selected from throughout its career including such gems as Big Bill Broonzy's Somebody's Got to Go which it often performed with Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Crawdad Hole which it recorded originally with Big Joe Turner and It All Went Down the Drain which it recorded with Earl King. As great as these tunes are the band shines brightest on originals such as Dressed Up to To Get Messed Up, guitarist and band leader Chris Vachon's Just Keep Rockin' and Turn It On, Turn It Up as well as longest serving member Rich Latille's horn driven instrumental tour de force Straight Jacquet. The band also breathes surprising new life into the Hank William chestnut Jambalaya with Lataille leading the way on clarinet. While renowned for its sparkling horn section, which provides both background spice and attention grabbing solos, the band has always also had top notch guitarists starting with founding member Duke Robillard. Current guitarist Chris Vachon continues that tradition with his incendiary soloing on Magic Sam's Easy Baby and his own Blue Blue World.  While the vocalist slot probably has the largest alumni club, Phil Pemberton acquits himself extraordinarily well on this recording with his big lunged vocals that provide a perfect foil for the swinging groove of the horns. This is a top notch release that every lover of classic  R & B and blues should own. SMITTY

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

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