Self-Release – 2017
12 tracks; 51 minutes
Based in the Washington DC Metro area, The Roustabouts started out at a jam in a local club in the early 00’s and this is their debut album. The core of the band is fiddler Pete Daniels and singer Andrew Wiley who met at college in Syracuse NY; once the band started to form they were joined by guitarist Dan Shine. The rhythm section of Jeff Muller on bass and Phillip Bucci on drums is of more recent vintage and the band is supplemented by Tommy Lepson’s keys on most tracks, Mark Wenner of The Nighthawks who plays harp on two tunes, Vince McCool (great name!) on trumpet and Wayne Sulc on sax appear on four tracks and backing vocals are added to four tracks by Anita King and Caz Gardiner. Pete and Andrew wrote most of the material with contributions from Dan on two cuts and there is one cover.
The fiddle is somewhat unusual as a lead instrument but we should remember that Gatemouth Brown always played it and in 2011 Lionel Young won the IBC with a violin-led band. Pete is classically trained but in this determinedly blues set his sound is almost a replacement for a slide guitar role so those who might be put off by the band’s tag of ‘DC’s Finest Blues-Fiddle Band’ should read on.
“Hey Baby” is a lively opener, Pete soloing elegantly over Dan’s guitar before Dan breaks out for a short but sweet solo of his own – a good start. Four tracks feature the horns, starting with “When It All Comes Down On You”, a shuffle with lyrics about needing to remain resilient when everything is going wrong; “Code Red” is an extended slow blues about extremely hot weather with good vocals from Andrew, some sterling guitar work from Dan and a moody fiddle section from Pete, the tune bearing some similarity to BB King’s “All Over Again”; the horns play a smaller role on the tale of love lost, “Hurtingest Blues”, as Tommy’s B3 is at the heart of the tune; Liz Springer duets with Andrew on a latin-tinged tune with a comic storyline as Liz assures Andrew that “Nothin’s Gonna Happen”.
Roosevelt Dean was a friend of Pete and Andrew in Syracuse until his death in 2009 and they pay tribute to their departed friend with the rocking “Magic Power”, a song from his 2002 album Somewhere ‘Round Georgia. “Take Care Of Me Mama” is another rockier track and a good example of how the fiddle and guitar mesh together, as they also do on “Dirty Dishes”, the refrain of which somehow brings to mind The Allmans. The title track “Plenty Of Blues” shows another side to the band with a pure rock and roll piece. The rhythm section fairly bounces along on “Open Road”, one of those fast-paced driving songs that is always hard to resist whereas Pete’s “Just Call Me Baby” takes us back to earlier acoustic blues, even using a scratchy 78 sound at the start. The duetting between Pete’s fiddle and Mark Wenner’s harp is the main feature here and Mark also guests on a song about the “Dinosaur” BBQ, this reviewer’s favourite track on the album, not least because I once spent a great night at that establishment listening to Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials!
With a different sound to much of the current scene, an original program and good playing this album is definitely worth investigating.