Were there a shortage of sincere, hard-working, rockin’ blues outfits Roadhouse would easily stand head and shoulders above the pack. But if there’s one thing the western world has in abundance it is sincere, hard-working, rockin’ blues outfits – as a random sample of live music bars on a Friday or Saturday night in Anytown USA, UK or Europe will sweatily attest.
Which means Roadhouse have to add something extra to their blend of supreme musicianship, memorable vocals and sympathetic production to stand out as well as they do. And that something extra comes in the form of dark and twisted blues lyrics, dramatic delivery and enough confidence to climb into the back seat of the blues and still command attention. The opening cut, Too Tired To Pray shakes its tail feather over six action-packed minutes and still only serves as an hors d’ouevre for the main attraction – the Bible black Southern Gothic bluescapes of the title track and its rollicking companion piece, Working Class Gospel Drinking Blues.
Singer Gary Boner conjures the kind of Dantean reverie that both seduces and repels, his incessant rhythm guitar only adding to the gumbo, before giving way to blessed relief courtesy of co-singers Mandie G, Kelly Marie Hobbs and Suzi B who ease the songs into their lead vocal passages with meticulous care. This is Roadhouse at their best and the mix continues to work well on the more conventional Swamp Girl, but starts to wear thin in the stringy lead guitar passages of Rainmaker and Play With Fire, bottoming out on the reedy version of T-Bone Walker’s Stormy Monday.
But if dark-hearted, richly coloured blues is your thing, you’ll have to go some to find a more charismatic vessel than Roadhouse.