CD: 11 Songs; 67:47 Minutes
Styles: Live, Contemporary Chicago and Electric Blues
Rosa’s Lounge, located on Armitage Avenue, is one of Chicago’s most renowned clubs. Only the best and brightest blues bastions receive the honor of playing there, as did Howard (McCullum) and the White Boys (guitarists Rocco Calipari and Pete Galanis, and drummer Jim “Bucka” Christopulos) on a certain fortuitous night: August 2nd, 2013. All but one of the eleven original songs on this album were recorded live at Rosa’s. The liner notes reveal that the final number, “That’s Alright,” was recorded at Joyride Studios by Brian Leach. Perhaps the best summary of the CD is its inside cover photograph, worth a thousand words. Four band members are sitting at Rosa’s bar, with one clear liquor shot in front of each, adding to their merriment as they smile and laugh. One glance at Howard’s joyful face encapsulates what live blues is all about: cheerful camaraderie with the music itself and one’s audience. Performing with them that night were guests Steve Asma on slide guitar and Neal O’hara on organ.
According to the band’s website, “Howard & the White Boys formed in 1988 and began jamming together just for fun, but their fast-growing popularity soon convinced them they could make a career of it. After only a few months, they got their first big break by opening for B.B. King. Their reputation grew in Chicago and they began performing with the biggest names in blues…Between 1994 and 1997, the group made two highly acclaimed recordings, ‘Strung Out On The Blues’ and ‘Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner’”. Both tracks are featured on this CD. The following three are fantastic:
Track 02: “Strung Out on the Blues” – Witness what pure Chicago blues is: Everything about this song is perfect: the smoldering lead guitar, Howard’s clear and passionate vocals, and “Bucka” Christopulos never missing a beat. Addictions are typically unhealthy and dangerous, but what about this one? “I’m strung out on the blues; people, I just can’t say no. Every time I try to run away, you know these blues, they won’t let me go.” Nearly eight minutes of magic delighted the fans at Rosa’s Lounge.
Track 03: “Trouble Follows You” – With an infectious bassline by Howard and relentless drum beat, there won’t be a person left seated while everyone else dances. Down and dirty, this is a warning to someone who might “end in the joint again, and make your mama cry.”
Track 09: “Walk Away” – Our narrator is trapped in a romantic double bind: “I’m damned if I do. You know I’m damned if I don’t…Baby, I‘m so tired. I can’t stand to have another fight. No matter how hard I try, girl, nothing I do seems to be right.” This poignant blues ballad contains just the right dash of R&B.
Even if you’re not in Chicago, this musical trip to Rosa’s Lounge is definitely worth it!