The album is deeply rooted in the legendary Chicago blues venues.
Rosa’s Lounge is the latest (live) album from the Chicago based blues veterans, Howard and the White Boys. “Heat Seeking Missile” is the first track on the album and starts off showcasing the guitar talents of Rocco Calipari and Pete Galanis with Jim Christopulos keeping them in time on the drums. Howard McCullum’s smooth delivery comes in with the occasional growl at just the right times, bringing to life that which is the blues. There’s a solo early on by Calipari that demonstrates how skilled he is with the guitar.
“Strung Out On The Blues” really slows things down in the beginning and slowly picks up the tempo without you realizing it in the middle and then slowing down again towards the end. This is an interesting twist on the life of an addict that is lyrically simple yet instrumentally complex. A lot of the song features the talents of the musicians and Howard seemingly takes a step back and lets the other three jam.
“Trouble Follows You” starts out with Calipari and Galanis feeding off of each other on their respective guitars with, dare it be said, a Hendrix flavor and then fades away. McCullum is able to demonstrate some of his range and power. He starts off soft and becomes very powerful. In comparison to the other songs on the album, this one was hard to get into and really enjoy. It’s a good song, just not as catchy and maybe relatable as the others, but hold on… “Judge” is the funk master of the album. The song starts out with a rich funky sound, hits the blues again, and gets funky towards the end. There are some incredible demonstrations of traditional blues guitar and drum instrumentals in this song that bring it full circle.
“What Would I Do” brings the tempo down once again and has the classic blues tone and lyrics about a guy being down on his luck whose life is turned around by the woman in his life. McCullum demonstrates his range and shows he’s not afraid to take some risks with allowing his voice to crack at the appropriate times, get low at others, and drop a passionate growl. Segue into “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner,” which starts off with a low and soft conversational tone. The band gets funky on this track while it delivers a “…I’m the one your mama warned you about…” cautionary tale. Steve Asma, one of the original White Boys, is featured on this track and he delivers.
The guitar intro of “Black Cat” quickly makes way for McCullum to tell the tale of how nobody better get in his way. An upper tempo song with classic instrumental pauses allowing McCullum to get the song’s point across brilliantly. The sound of the slide blues guitar on this song is stellar accentuated, again, by perfectly timed musical breaks. “The Last Time” starts out with a rock flavor with a dash of blues and then gets all blues a minute or two in. The dash of guitar funk and its placement is genius. This band is known for their funk and I’d be remiss if I did not mention the 70’s riffs that are strategically placed throughout the song. The latter stages of the song take on a more rock feel that brings it back to the beginning once again.
The slow melodic rock entry to “Walk Away” quickly lends itself to the buttery blues tone of Howard’s voice. This song is less “bluesy” than any of the other songs on the album. However, you can still feel the grit that is the blues with a “damned if I do and damned if I don’t” message. At over eight minutes, this is the longest song on the album. However, it is a song you get lost in and do not pay attention to the length. Don’t miss the incredible guitar solo that is quickly acknowledged by the crowd in attendance during the recording.
“The Blues Are Killing Me” starts off with a great guitar duel that compliment each other in a somewhat strange way, but it works. During the instrumental portion in the middle, you will find yourself tapping your feet and nodding your head along to the beat. If you listen closely, you will notice there are a number of difficult instrumentations these guys pull off without missing a beat. The rhythm guitar in this song gets a little monotonous, but not overly distracting because it is gently overplayed by the others. However, if you catch it, it’s somewhat hypnotizing.
Closing out the album is “That’s Alright.” McCullum channels a bit of Darius Rucker on this track and the band follows suit. An upbeat song that tells you that it’s alright to think of someone the first thing when you wake up and the last thing at night. As you are listening, you get the sense of what sounds like an organ in the background and then about two-thirds of the way through, it’s showcased. A great fit to this song and mixed very well.
The ending of the album is somewhat anticlimactic. For a live album, one would think there would be a rousing instrumental exit with the crowd going crazy. Not here and somewhat disappointing. That said, the album overall is very good. It is obvious that Howard and the White Boys have been playing together a long time and take their music seriously. This album would be a great addition to your blues collection.