Hot Roux – Stranger’s Blues | Album Review

hotrouxcdHot Roux – Stranger’s Blues

Hi Hat Records & Entertainment HHE 3406

10 songs – 36 minutes

Fronted by singing drummer Jerry McWhorter, Hot Roux delivers a gumbo of blues, swamp and country that would be comfortable in roadhouse along the Gulf Coast even though the band is based in Ventura, Calif., a coastal community not far from Los Angeles.

Primarily known as the rhythm section for guitar great Albert Lee and having worked behind a who’s who of bluesmen, including James Harmon, Lynwood Slim, Kim Wilson and Kenny Neal, the band usually tours as a three-piece. But they’ve produced much broader sound for this CD, which was recorded live in studio.

McWhorter and bass player Brent Harding wrote all 10 of the songs that appear here. Their regular guitarists Ed Berghoff and Tommy Harkenrider share six-string duties with legendary string-bender Franck Goldwasser, aka Paris Slim. Sam Bolle and Steve Nelson relieve Harding on the bottom for three cuts. Also making guest appearances are harmonica player Jacob Huffman, guitarist Pat McClure and sax player Bill Flores.

Named for the basic ingredient in all Cajun cooking – a combination of flour and oil cooked down to a dark blend, Hot Roux kicks off the festivities with “Broken Again.” It’s a country-tinged blues-rocker delivered atop a single note lead from Berghoff in which McWhorter states sweetly that he’s bidding his gal farewell because he only has one heart and doesn’t want it to be broken again. Goldwasser gets down and dirty for “Stranger’s Blues,” a slow shuffle that’s got a big-city, dark feel. This time, the message is that no one wants to have anything to do with the new guy in town.

Harkenrider assumes the lead for “Woman Where You Been,” accented by Huffman on harp. It’s a walking blues with a Chicago feel. McWhorter’s vocals are crisp and clean, his delivery pushing the tune forward a millisecond behind the beat. The loping “Seven Lonely Nights” depicts the days since the lady went away, driven by Goldwasser’s chucky guitar riffs and stinging solo. “Big Mama’s” describes a bar where the lights are low and the owner will “cut you down to size” if you act out of line. It’s delivered with a Slim Harpo-style swamp feel.

Flores’ sax propels the rocker “Tick Tock,” which warns “one more tick and we won’t be talkin’ anymore.” Next up, “Anna Lee” is a slow blues love song that gives Harkenrider a chance to spread his wings on an extended single-note solo and occasional runs. The syncopated “Red Pepper Baby” describes a woman who’s almost too hot to handle, but too good to avoid. Apparently, she’s unforgettable, as the next song, “Can’t Get You Off My Mind,” clearly states. A military drum beat propels the reprise, “Another Seven Lonely Nights,” to conclude the set.

There’s nothing over-the-top here. Hot Roux cooks, but stays out of your face and in total control as it delivers solid music from one song to the next. Available through Amazon and iTune, it’s guaranteed to keep your toes tapping or your feet moving on the dance floor throughout the night.

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