Blues On Stage
House of Blues Radio
Blues Revue (April / May 2002)
Bob Corritore is more than a club owner with a good idea. He’s a tireless blues promoter who not only plays a mean harp but who has the smarts to document his brushes with blues royalty. His popular Phoenix blues club, the Rhythm Room, is near-legendary for its who’s who of regular blues artists and hangers-on. This disc presents a taste of what Bob’s Rhythm Room is all about as it reflects on its 10th anniversary. Corritore is a long-time blues aficionado who hosts his own radio show, Those Lowdown Blues, and he’s careful to book acts representing authenticity over those offering mere commercial flash
The Rhythm Room also has a reputation as a club where local acts can cross-pollinate with national names. In so doing, bluesmen get to enjoy the spontaneity and creative opportunities that the blues relies on. Finds include Henry Gray’s “Sinner’s Prayer,” with inspired guitar from Johnny Rapp, meaty harp from Corritore and Gray’s barrelhouse piano; harp player Mojo Buford’s “In My Younger Days” (with Bob Margolin) and Kim Wilson’s 10-minute workout on Eddie Boyd’s “Five Long Years” (featuring Rusty Zinn). A full-throated Nappy Brown redefines “Lemon Squeezin’ Daddy” with Sonny Rhodes sitting in on guitar. R.L. Burnside’s delightfully droning “Goin’ Down South” is another moment worthy of preserving, alongside three other Burnside tracks included here.
Corritore’s belief that nobody can fake the blues is evidenced by this 67-minute collection representing emotional expression steeped in true blues tradition. Documenting some of the Rhythm Room’s brightest musical moments was a brilliant stroke and a fitting tribute to the club’s hardcore support of the blues. How lucky would we be if all clubs exercised this same degree of foresight, creating a permanent record of the spontaneity that distinguishes blues from other genres?
– Eric Thom
Living Blues (March / April 2002)
Collecting live tracks recorded at Bob Corritore’s Phoenix club Rhythm Room from 1994 to 2001, this diverse compilation presents a broad array of artists and blues styles. Longtime Fabulous Thunderbird harpist and singer Kim Wilson contributes two outstanding tracks (a faithful version of Rice Miller’s classic Eyesight To The Blind, complete with “wah wah” acoustic harmonica effects, and a deep blues take on Eddie Boyd’s Five Long Years, with powerful chromatic harp accompaniment). Wilson is backed on his two cuts by an all-star ensemble that includes guitarists Rusty Zinn and Billy Flynn along with bassist Larry Taylor. Taking the music from another, more rudimentary level is in the unique R.L. Burnside, who turns in four no-frills performances, including a down and dirty version of the Delta anthem Rollin’ And Tumblin’ and a foot-stomping boogie original Long Haired Doney.
Producer Corritore also includes performances from lap steel ace Sonny Rhodes (the storming shuffle Living Too Close To The Edge), drummer/vocalist Sam Lay (the undulating dance vehicle How’d You Learn To Shake It Like That? and the dubious choiceI’m Gonna Shoot Her, with its homicidal lyrics), former Muddy Waters Band harp player Mojo Buford, who tackles another Rice Miller composition, In My Younger Days, and powerful R&B vocalist Nappy Brown, who fronts Rhodes and band for a salacious Lemon Squeezin’ Daddy. Perhaps the most impressive cuts are contributed by pianist Henry Gray, famed for his long tenure with Howlin’ Wolf’s band. His take on the old standardSinner’s Prayer is spiced by rolling piano and sinuous slide guitar from Johnny Rapp, and the full bore boogie woogie Henry’s Houserocker raises the roof as promised.
Corritore and Hightone deserve kudos for the care with which they assembled the eclectic contents of the CD’s first-rate program. Blues buffs of all persuasions are sure to find something of value on Rhythm Room Blues.
– Kevin Toelle
Blues On Stage (March 2002)
Bob Corritore has made quite a name for himself over the past few decades. Starting with his own blues record label, at the ripe old age of 21 no less, he’s gone on to amass a blues collection that is astounding; a muscular harp player as well, he’s backed many of the finest blues performers around, and he also sports his own club, The Rhythm Room, in Phoenix. A major stomping ground for traveling blues artists, his nightclub has played host to countless shows, both big and small, and this new Hightone CD, “Rhythm Room Blues” collects a baker’s dozen from some well-heeled masters of the idiom.
Kim Wilson appropriately leads the set off with “Eyesight To The Blind,” a Sonny Boy Williamson chestnut, and he’s also been chosen to close the set with Eddie Boyd’s “Five Long Years.” Backed by Rusty Zinn and Billy Flynn’s tandem guitars, and a world class rhythm section of Larry Taylor and Richard Innes, Wilson works his magic as a vocalist hitting nerves left and right, and his incomparable harmonica playing is as tasteful as it is powerful on the pair. R.L. Burnside, an unlikely rising star, but a deserved one, contributes four lowdown solo tracks with only his droning guitar as accompaniment. His “Nightmare Blues” and “Goin’ Down South,” both originals, are solid and rooted in the Mississippi Hill country where he resides, and while he’s just as potent on “Rollin’ And Tumblin’ ” and “Long Haired Doney,” he’s miscredited as penning both. The first goes back to Hambone Willie Newbern, while the second is based on Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis’ tune of the same name.
Bob Corritore spices up a number of cuts adding solid harp to Henry Gray’s “Sinner’s Prayer” and Sam Lay’s two, “How’d You Learn To Shake It Like That?” and “I’m Gonna Shoot Her.” Lay is a master of the blues shuffle, showing his unerring drum work that graces both, and as a singer, he’s downright convincing. Sonny Rhodes adds a track with blazing guitar on “Livin’ Too Close To The Edge,” and sparks fly when he plays support to Nappy Brown’s “Lemon Squeezin’ Daddy.” Mojo Buford is aboard with “In My Younger Days,” and it seems as if the former Muddy Waters’ sideman isn’t aging at all. Henry Gray also puts down a romping instrumental, “Henry’s Houserocker,” backed by Chico Chism’s drilling backbeats.
While a number of the artists heard here are getting up in years, they sound as young and vibrant as purveyors half their age. Solid support from Johnny Rapp, Bob Margolin, Tom Mahon, and a few others goes a long way in laying seamless grooves for the frontmen to work from, and this set of “live” blues is one of the most rewarding compilations in a while. Recording quality is superb, personnel is listed for all tracks, and Robert Baird’s liner notes make for good reading as you begin to spin this hour-plus disc. For more info, check out www.hightone.com or www.bobcorritore.com – both good websites.
– Craig Ruskey
Blues Rag (December 2001)
Build it and they shall come. And so Bob Corritore built it. And indeed they came, all the way to Arizona – bluesmen, packing traditionalism in their untamed romps, storming vocals, and pretense-free instrumental approaches. For a decade now, the Rhythm Room has been a verdant blues oasis right off of Indian School Road in Phoenix. by celebrating the venue’s ten-year anniversary, Rhythm Room Blues affords 13 excuses to raid the club’s archive of on-stage performances. Like Corritore 1999 all-studio grab-bag with All-Star Blues Sessions (HMG 1009), this all-live compilation likewise documents the diversity of blues heroes that have passed through this club. Here seven head-liners get captured between 1994 to ’99. Harvested from the same strong February ’99 gigs that produced half of Kim Wilson’s latest solo album, the ten-minute slow-burn workout for him as well as guitarists Rusty Zinn and Billy Flynn on “Five Long Years” demonstrates that the Rhythm Room was indeed a “Smokin’ Joint” on those nights. Sonny Rhodes and his loosely-wrapped turban and tightly-wrapped guitar fire off a cut before returning to stoke an already emphatic Nappy Brown, who blasts hot-blooded innuendo with “Lemon Squeezin’ Daddy”. Sam Lay and Mojo Buford each captain crisp trots from behind their respective well-worn drums and harp. The immortal Henry Gray shakes out a flying-fingers instrumental, but burrows his croak and those 88s deep into the downturned “Sinner’s Prayer.” And cropping up four times between all those ensemble tracks is a solitary R.L. Burnside, who works his modal juju behind the charge of “If the Budweiser lasts, I think we’ll make it.”
– Dennis Rozanski
Desert Bluesbeat – Tucson Blues Society (December 2001)
Up that lonesome highway in Phoenix is one of the country’s premier blues ‘n’ roots clubs, the Rhythm Room. In its 10 years many of blues’ all-time greats have played there, and Bob Corritore has had the foresight to record many of them. Now you can have a taste of these history making live performances by R.L. Burnside, Nappy Brown, Sonny Rhodes, Henry Gray, Kim Wilson, and more. This is real blues and real fine. Congrats to Bob and the Rhythm Room for a decade of doin’ it right!
– Marty Cool
Phoenix NewTimes (December 2001)
Bob Corritore, according to the booklet accompanying this live set recorded at the Valley’s premier blues hut, the Rhythm Room, is “a native Chicagoan who started a small blues label at the tender age of 21 and who possesses one of the world’s finest blues record collections. Corritore moved to the wilds of Arizona in 1981. He soon began making his mark as a local musician [a harp player] as well as hosting a radio program entitled ‘Those Lowdown Blues’ . . . It was only a short leap from there to promoter and, now, club owner.”
And then only a 10-year leap to this 13-song anthology compiling some of the crème du blooze that’s gone down in the past decade at Corritore’s venue.
A pair of obvious standouts on RRB are the Kim Wilson cuts (recorded in February ’99 at the same gigs that yielded parts of the Fab T-Birds’ singer/harpist’s recent live solo debut,Smokin’ Joint), most notably a rich and soulful take of “Eyesight to the Blind,” which is, quite naturally, far truer to the Sonny Boy Williamson original than the familiar Who (Tommy) version. Everyone’s favorite high-country wild man R.L. Burnside makes no less than four solo ’94 appearances here (don’t miss his quirky version of “Rollin’ and Tumblin'”), his signature Hooker-ish guitar drone joined at the hip to his spooky, blood-at-midnight vocals. Quips Burnside by way of intro, “If the Budweiser lasts, I think we’ll make it!”
Muddy Waters alumnus Mojo Buford (vocals/harp) serves up the collection’s second Sonny Boy Williamson number, a slinky, yearning “In My Younger Days.” Consider Buford’s ’98 lineup: guitarist Bob Margolin (also a Waters veteran), drummer Chico Chism and guitarist Johnny Rapp. Both Rapp and Chism turned up in Henry Gray’s ’96 backing band (two cuts here, including Lowell Fulson’s brutal “Sinner’s Prayer”). And Rapp, along with a very fine ‘n’ sleek harp player by the name of Corritore, also backed up Sam Lay (two cuts) this past March. A performance each by guitarist Sonny Rhodes and belter Nappy Brown, both sharing the same band, round out the disc. One might surmise that when a band plays the Rhythm Room, it’s an everyone’s-invited family affair kinda thang where anything goes onstage as long as it’s lean, mean and bluesy.
Liner notes man Robert Baird (former New Times music editor and currently the M.E. for New York-based Stereophile) writes of the venue, “Ten years and one hell of a lot of glorious shows later, the Rhythm Room is proudly celebrating its 10-year anniversary with this record. [Corritore] and his club have built a reputation that extends far beyond the environs of Phoenix.” Corritore himself adds that on “night after night [at the Rhythm Room] there are lots of magical moments and these are just a few that happened to be caught on tape.”
Indeed. Superbly well-recorded in terms of fidelity and ambiance, to say nothing of the excitement that fairly drips from the jewel case, Rhythm Room Blues offers at least 13 compelling reasons to pack your bags and head to the desert.
– Fred Mills
House of Blues Radio
The Rhythm Room is one of the great blues clubs in the Southwest. Located in Phoenix, Arizona, the club is owned by Bob Corritore, a blues impresario who has served his fans well. Coming up, a track from an album that pays tribute to the Rhythm Room, as well as to a blues veteran … Stay put now …
The album Rhythm Room Blues contains live tracks recorded in Arizona’s number one blues club, the Rhythm Room, in Phoenix. It is produced by owner Bob Corritore, and the album is as much a document of the great sounds heard in the Rhythm Room as it is a celebration to the artists who performed there over the years. “The tape player wasn’t going for all the precious moments, unfortunately. But we’re real proud of the ones we caught. We have Sonny Rhodes, Mojo Buford, and Chico Chism, playing some great drums. Chico is a former Chicagoan that moved out here. He was Howlin’ Wolf’s last drummer, he’s part of the Rhythm Room All-Stars … four cuts with R.L. Burnside, two with Kim Wilson. Henry Gray is on there, Sam Lay, Nappy Brown sings a great cut and is on the cover.” (Music)
Henry Gray, live from the Rhythm Room in Phoenix Arizona, with “Sinner’s Prayer.” I’m Elwood Blues, with your House of Blues Arizona Blues Tribute break.
– Dan Aykroyd (as Elwood Blues)