Billy "Blue" Strauss is an unwavering veteran bluesman who’s been fronting bands since 1980 and has had his share of "ups-and-downs" along the way. But he has no complaints. When you commit wholeheartedly to this music, the fundamental fact is you always struggle. "Blues In My Room" is a release that’s long overdue, and it succeeds because Blue wields a convincing harmonica and has a tremendous respect for the traditions that underlie the Blues.
This transplanted Long Islander spent a lot of years in Buffalo where he first got into the Blues; eventually relocating to the Boston (Worcester MA) area to ply his trade at the suggestion of friend Jerry Portnoy. We all know the huge blues talent in that vicinity (Ronnie Earl, Duke Robillard, Roomful Of Blues).
On "Blues In My Room" Billy has augmented his fine outfit with the likes of Bruce Bears from the Toni Lynn Washington band on piano and B-3 organ. He also got another local guy with international credentials in Gordon "Sax" Beadle to write horn arrangements and to put together a horn section including Doug James and Scott Aruda. Other solid contributors include guest pianist Dave Maxwell, guitarist Pete Henderson, and the rhythm section of Brian Rost and Justin Berthiaume.
Blue makes good on his promise, by delivering a variety of cool sounds and grooves throughout this tradition-soaked 12-track release. There’s a good chunk of Chicago blues, involving selections from Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and especially Little Walter’s classic repertoire. The influence of Little Walter is apparent throughout. The covers are rock-solid, but it’s the half-dozen originals that often veer into Soul and Funk that make things even more interesting.
Billy Blue realizes that Blues is a lifetime journey: the more roads you travel, the more places you play, the more connections you make, the better you become. Now that Mr. "Blue" has paid those dues, we can sit back, relax, and dig the crucial lessons he’s absorbed.