CD: 12 Songs, 49:44 Minutes
Styles: Torch Singer Blues, Soul-Influenced Blues, Live Album
Audio technicians at live concerts know a sound system can make or break a band as much as the music does. Artists can play all the crowd favorites in the book, but if their PA’s are crackling with static, their mics are ill-adjusted, and there’s no balance among bass, treble, and the various instruments, they might find beer bottles thrown at their feet instead of cheers directed in their ears. The same principle applies if you’re playing a live album via your own own sound system, blues connoisseurs. Tinny-sounding integrated PC speakers or a cheap boombox, will do nothing to enhance Rochelle and the Sidewinders’ Live in Austin, Texas. On the other hand, if your headphones Beexcellent™ like mine, they’ll increase the quality of this release from “pretty good” to “OMG!” Featuring an African-American chanteuse whose voice is as lovely as her face, it’s perfect for a relaxing evening with your partner, pet, or self.
The “Bio” section of this ensemble’s webpage exults: “Rochelle & The Sidewinders is [a] group comprised of seasoned veterans of the Austin music scene with the common desire to play the Blues! Focusing on original music as well as classics by the likes of Etta James, Koko Taylor, [and] Buddy Guy with a few bluesy twists on some modern tunes as well! Rochelle is a dynamic and striking presence with a voice that cuts right through to the bone! You will dance, groove and party-don’t miss an opportunity to catch this amazing act live!” Does this quintet deserve all those exclamation points? Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Instrumentally, there might be too much going on all at once, requiring continuous partial attention to the marvelous, myriad lines.
Performing with vocalist Rochelle Creone are Tom Coplen on guitar and vocals; Todd Frenzel on keyboards, vocals and harp; Jim Trimmier on sax, and John Powell on drums and vocals.
On nine original numbers and three covers, Rochelle and the Sidewinders give it their all, with their original material outshining the “crowd favorites” I mentioned earlier. For example:
Track 01: “Flip Side” – Why not get audiences dancing right from the start? That’s what this album’s opener does in spades. It’s high-octane, witty blues, but also a prime example of every instrument taking the lead and requiring listeners to multitask. “I guess I’ll catch you on the flip side, baby,” Rochelle sings with just the right touch of snark to her errant lover.
Track 05: “Drinking at Noon” – “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere,” the old saying goes, and our narrator finds herself falling into the midday-cocktail trap. “You’d do it too, if you knew what I was going to do,” our protagonist reveals in relation to her suck-cessful life. “Lost my job; I’ll find another. Lost my guy; someday I’ll recover. Got arrested; went to jail. Had to pawn my guitar just to pay my bail.” Jim Trimmier plays some sensational sax here.
Track 08: “Gotta Get Going” – Sounds like the subject of the previously-mentioned track needs an extra dose of this motivational powerhouse song. “Well, you gotta get going if you plan on getting there…There ain’t no use in sitting around.” Track eight mixes big-band swing with postmodern blues in another hit that will get everyone on their feet, or putting the pedal to the metal if they’re on the highway. Check out Tom Coplen’s terrific ‘50s-style guitar solo.
Rochelle and the Sidewinders pleased blues lovers in person and at home Live in Austin, Texas!