By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © December 2020
Peter Poirier is not one of the countless musicians who have been a part of Roomful Of Blues, but with the way he has that vintage Roomful groove down pat, he sure sounds like he could have been. Of course, assembling a band of extraordinary musicians – some of who have a connection not only to Roomful but to Duke Robillard as well – also has a lot to do with that.
On “Empty Arms”, his debut release, Peter Poirier – on guitar and lead vocals – is joined by: Brad Hallen on acoustic and electric bass; Mark Teixeira on drums; Matt McCabe on piano; and Mark Earley on alto, tenor, baritone sax and horn arrangements. The disc’s ten tracks are all Peter Poirier renditions of very recognizable classics from some of the genre’s very recognizable giants.
If your mission statement is old school 1950’s blues and R&B, you can’t ever go wrong opening with a B. B. King song and Peters choice – an excellent one indeed – was going with the 1957 classic, “Bad Luck” (B.B. King, J. Josea). From a personal standpoint, although songs like this are what floats my blues boat, I find that they’re tough to write about, while listening. Sitting back in my chair with: my feet tappin’; my hands tappin’ my knees; and my head bobbing from side to side; is not very conducive to typing. That said, I have a wonderful solution: just keep hitting replay. With a melodic and soothing voice like Peter’s and the band being in one of those “lock the door and throw away the key” grooves, I can do this all day long.
Another song recorded by B. B. King – and just about every successful, aspiring and wannabe bluesman, and some women, as well – is Sleepy John Estes’ 1938 classic “Someday Baby” (J. Estes, H. Nixon). Although Peter’s vocal mastery is pretty much front and center on all of the songs, this track features a few very nice musical standouts. Mark T. and Brad, on drums and bass, are in one of those rhythm grooves so common for them but yet so dynamite for us; Matt’s having a good ol’ time laying down something between Dixieland and barrelhouse on piano; and Peter’s guitar leads speak volumes for his love and mastery of these vintage blues.
So, when you’re talking fifties blues, sooner rather than later, the name Willie Dixon will inevitably pop up. Here it does so in the form of his “I Cry For You”. Not remembering the song, I’ll admit to deviating to Youtube for a quick listen and having done that, I’m quite impressed with how – more so than with the others – Peter and the guys made this one their own. Nice job!
Being the maestro that he is, Peter Poirier hasn’t once displayed a need to “shred”, “bend” or “scorch” as a means to impress. Now don’t get me wrong, all of that is fine but smooth rules on this type of material. That said, he is totally tearing it up on “I’m Tore Up” (I. Turner, R. Bass). With Mark Earley blowing out some of his hottest sax leads; the rest of the rhythm section being their usual magnificent selves; and Peter being at disc’s best on guitar and vocals; this is hands down my favorite track of the lot. Great stuff!
The disc closes out with an instrumental track written by the “Texas Cannonball” but it’s not your typical scorching Texas blues so familiar to Mr. Freddie King. With a Latin vibe, “Heads Up” (F. King, S. Thompson) is a very well done dance floor filling, rhythm fueled rumba.
Other tracks on this excellent debut release include: “No More Alcohol” (J. Liggins); “I Wonder Why” (B.B. King, J. Josea); “And Like That” (B.B. King); “Empty Arms” (J. Young); and “You Know That You Love Me”
(S.Thompson, F. King).
By the way, on a project with so many common denominators, there’s one more worthy of mention and that’s producer Jack Gauthier. In addition to doing an amazing job here, Jack’s also responsible for some fabulous production work with the Knickerbocker All-Stars, an act that many of these musicians – and myself as well – have also had the pleasure of working with on several occasions.
For more information on Peter Poirier, and to take my advice and get yourself a copy of “Empty Arms”, just go to – www.peterpoirier.com. While you’re there, please tell him the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping the Blues Alive Recipient