Billy Blue Blues

Blues Revue Magazine Issue 106 June/July 2007

Blues in My Room is a triumphant self-release from veteran Worcester, Massachusetts (via Boston, California, and New York) harmonica player and singer Billy Blue. His Harp tone sizzles, he has chops, and he's enough of a singer to deliver dance oriented R&B ("So Afraid of Losing You"), ballads ("Baby Come Back Home"), funk ("Let Me Know"), Southern Soul ("I'll Come Running Back"), the Little Walter Pastiche "I Gotta Have You," mellow jump ("I'm Falling in Love With You"), and a variety of Blues classics ("Everybody's in the Mood," "Hard Hearted Woman"). He tackles a brace of Little Walter's lesser-known instrumentals and gives guitarist Pete Henderson room to shine on an inspired cover of Albert King's version of "I Get Evil (Don't You Lie to Me)." Bruce Bears and Dave Maxwell appear on keyboards, along with Gordon Beadle and Doug James on Sax and Scott Aruda on Trumpet, in addition to the core rhythm section of Justin Berthiaume (drums) and Brian Rost (bass). Room is accomplished and thoroughly enjoyable. You will dig it.

Mick Rainsford - Blues in Britain Magazine

William Strauss AKA Billy Blue is a new name to me, but he has been playing the blues for over 30 years mixing with the likes of Kim Wilson, William Clarke, Rick Estrin and Rod Piazza - so it is no surprise to find out that Billy is a harmonica player and a talented one at that. His talent can be gauged by the fact that on this set his band (Pete Henderson (guitar), Brian Rost (bass) and Justin Berthiaume (drums) are supplemented by musicians of the caliber of "Sax" Gordon Beadle (tenor sax), Doug "Mr. Low" James (baritone sax), Scott Aruda (trumpet) with Bruce Bears and Dave Maxwell sharing piano duties.

Blue is a self-confessed disciple of Little Walter, and it shows - but he only uses Walter as an influence, stamping his own style and personality on everything he plays. He covers three Walter numbers on this set, "Big Leg Mama", "Don't Need No Horse" and "I Got To Find My Baby" - although Blue's interpretations owe as much to Big as Little Walter. The first two being swinging instrumental shuffles - the second of which fairly rattles along replete with appropriately fat-toned guitar - whilst the tone and phrasing on the latter is pure Horton. A Big Walter number actually opens this set, a fine rendition of "Hard Hearted Woman" replete with wistful vocals and harp, and baying horns.

Albert King's "I Get Evil (Don't You Lie To Me)" gets a suitably laid back workout - Wolf's "Everybody's In The Mood" swings irresistibly whilst generating a rollicking Rice Miller feel - whilst "Sugar Sweet" captures the true essence of the 50's Chi-town ensemble sound.

Blue is also a talented tunesmith, and the six originals on this set fit in seamlessly with the well-chosen covers. "I'll Come Running Back" evokes the classic Stax soul/blues sound - "So Afraid Of Losing You" is a strutting swinger replete with riffing horns, soul infused vocals and rolling piano - "Baby Come Back Home" melds, elements of Swamp Pop, Johnny "Guitar" Watson and Earl King - whilst "I'm Falling In Love With You" mines a big band styled West Coast groove replete with salacious harp.

Billy Blue is a talented harmonica player blessed with a soulful voice and I urge you to seek this set out.