The Knickerbocker All-Stars – Texas Rhody Blues | Album Review

The Knickerbocker All-Stars – Texas Rhody Blues

JP Cadillac Records

13 tracks/49:13

This third project celebrating the former Knickerbocker Cafe, now the non-profit Knickerbocker Music Center in Westerly, RI, continues the legacy that gave birth to many of the outstanding musicians from that area, including the impressive list of alumni from Roomful of Blues. Focusing on the Texas blues tradition, it offers an intoxicating blend of horn-driven arrangements on shuffles and jump blues, seasoned with expressive vocals and top-notch guitar playing.

And how can you go wrong with Duke Robillard, Jimmie Vaughan, Monster Mike Welch, and Sugar Ray Rayford leading the way! Long-time fans will recognize many of the returning members, with Doug James on baritone & tenor saxophone, Rich Lataille on tenor & alto sax, Carl Querforth on trombone, Doc Channonhouse on trumpet, Al Copley on piano, Brad Hallen on standup & electric bass, and Mark Teixeira on drums plus Brian Templeton and Willie J. Laws on lead vocals. Two veteran piano players, Bruce Bears and Matt McCabe, make their first appearances in the series.

The party starts with a driving rhythm behind some of Welch’s exemplary guitar work on “Texas Cadillac”. Then Rayford’s powerhouse voice and the horns enter the fray, creating an incendiary mix. “I Still Love You Baby” takes a slighter slow pace without sacrificing of the energy as Rayford delivers an ardent appeal for love. He delivers forthright testimony on “Respirator Blues,” a standout slow blues track. When his time comes, Welch builds a mesmerizing solo over the riffing horn section.

Robillard and Vaughan are paired on three tracks starting with “Going To The Country,” a Dave Bartholomew song done in a solid shuffle groove that meshes perfectly with Robillard’s gritty vocal. Roy Milton’s “I Have News For You” is a swinging affair while “Blood Stains On The Wall” is a sinister tale with tough interplay from the two guitarists.

The lone instrumental, “Ain’t That A Dandy,” gives Welch and Copley room to stretch out. Channonhouse blows some majestic trumpet fills on “I Got News For You,” with Laws baring his soul. He is back on “You Got Me Licked,” adopting a disheartened attitude over a cheating woman. But he vows that she will end paying the price on the gripping “Reap What You Sow”. Welch once again impresses with a solo mining the depths of emotion. Laws’ seamless vocal captures the sound of Eddie ‘Cleanhead” Vinson on “I Trusted You Baby,” another cautionary tale with Lataille on alto sax.

The disc includes a one minute segment of the legendary T-Bone Walker talking about his life and career. To honor his acclaimed legacy, the band closes things with a spirited version of one of Walker’s classics, “Tell Me What ‘s The Reason”. The rhythm section is locked in, the horns drive the message home underneath a dramatic reading from Laws – and Welch makes it clear that he is well-versed in Walker’s immaculate phrasing. A spellbinding romp that seamlessly flows from one highlight to the next, make sure that you get a copy of this – it comes highly recommended!

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