Feelin' the blues

May 28, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Roomful of Blues is noncommittal when it comes to touting a particular style of blues, said its band leader Chris Vachon.

Having a meaty horn section gives the New England blues band a swing sound, but lately, the guys have moved closer toward New Orleans style blues.

But, Vachon said, really, the sound the band aims for is "authentic."

"The way you're supposed to do it," Vachon said, in a recent phone interview with The Herald-Mail. "There are a lot of people who sort of try to play that stuff but don't get all the nuances of it."

It's sort of like learning a language but speaking it in the wrong accent, he explained.

"You have to spend a lot of time listening to what's on those records to get the real approach to those styles," Vachon said.


Roomful is in Saturday's band roster at the Western Maryland Blues Fest, a four-day string of concerts set in and around downtown Hagerstown.

Blues Fest starts tonight with a free show at University Plaza Park and runs through Sunday with another free concert at City Park. The focal points of the event are the concerts Friday and Saturday in Hagerstown's Central Lot downtown. Roomful of Blues' show comes ahead of Saturday's headliners The Derek Trucks Band.

For Vachon, performing blues is a pleasure.

"I think the fact that it's an open-ended, improvisation type of thing, where you don't have to play the same thing every night in the same song," Vachon said. "It's not like copying verbatim because people want to hear it exactly that way because they heard it on a record. So if you get into a different mood and you're doing a solo, then you've got to do something different. The freedom of that is something we all like."

They bring that live aspect into the recording studio -- they don't do overdubs.

"I think we'd probably freak out if we had to do a bunch of overdubs," Vachon said. "Sometimes the little mistakes you make on a record, you end up keeping as something you probably couldn't come up with if you're sitting around trying to overdub. It's kind of fun that way."

The band's latest album, "Raisin' a Ruckus" was released in early 2008 by Alligator Records, the home to Buddy Guy and Koko Taylor.

This year, Roomful's label mates Lil' Ed and The Blues Imperials will also be performing at Blues Fest. Alligator was the source of several past Blues Fest performers, including Nappy Brown, Buckwheat Zydeco and Guitar Shorty.

Roomful of Blues was founded in the late 1960s. Vachon said that 55 musicians have since come and gone. Sax player Rich Lataille joined the band in 1970, when the band added a horn section, making him the longest-tenured member in the eight-man blues band.

"We've had very few people that we were happy to see go," Vachon said.

In fact, the band has only recently replaced one of its members, veteran trumpet player Bob Enos, who died at the age of 60 in 2008. He had been with the band for more than two decades.

"We were on tour over in Georgia," Vachon said. "We were waiting for him in the morning to get on the bus and he didn't show up so a couple of us went up there and had the hotel let us in the room and he had passed away.

"It knocked the wind right out of us for a while."

Six months ago, the band brought in a new trumpet player, Doug Woolverton, who has performed with The Temptations.

"He's a younger guy, very good. Very good attitude, very positive fellow," Vachon said.

As for what's next, Vachon said the band plans to record a new record this fall.

Western Md. Blues Fest

For tickets, go to

TODAY -- Blues Prelude

University Plaza Park, downtown Hagerstown. Free.

The Nighthawks, 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Friday -- Lotta Blues Show

City Central Lot, off North Potomac Street.

$25; $7 for ages 6 to 12

4:30 p.m. -- Ronnie Ray

5:30 p.m. -- Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band

6:45 p.m. -- Lil' Ed and the Blues Imperials

8:15 p.m. -- Jimmy Thackery and The Drivers

Saturday -- Downtown House Party

City Central Lot.

$40; $7 for ages 6 to 12

Beck's Stage

Noon -- The Kelly Bell Band

2 p.m. -- Bonerama

4 p.m. -- Janiva Magness

6:30 p.m. -- Roomful of Blues

Bud Light Stage

1 p.m. -- Bad Influence

3 p.m. -- Willie "Big Eyes" Smith

5:15 p.m. -- The Mike Stern Band

8 p.m. -- The Derek Trucks Band

Sunday -- Family Blues Picnic

City Park bandshell, Hagers-town, free

Noon -- The Rhythm Kings

1 p.m. -- Jumptown

2 p.m. -- Ruby Hayes Blues Band

3:30 p.m. -- Campbell Brothers

Washington County Museum of Fine Arts

1 p.m. -- Campbell Brothers steel guitar demo.

Noon and 2 p.m. -- Williamsport High School Jazz Ensemble

Other Events


Party in the Garden

Food, live music from the Bankwalkers and River Knot. $20 admission includes food. Washington County Historical Society, 135 W. Washington St., Hagerstown. 301-797-8782.


Post-Blues Fest show

Nigel's Birthday performs. Duffy's on Potomac, 28 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown. 301-745-6648.

Live music

Stack 'O Blues, Pete Lancaster perform. 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Peach Pub, 43 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown. 240-625-9491.


Post-Blues Fest show

Nigel's Birthday performs. Duffy's on Potomac, 28 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown. 301-745-6648.

Live music

Taulton performs. 9 p.m. to midnight. No cover. Bulls & Bears Restaurant, 38 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown. 301-791-0370.

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