Phil Gates plays what I call roadhouse blues—the kind of blues Robert Cray played in his very early days. In fact, first time through Addicted to the Blues, that's the first thing that came to mind. And I wasn't far from wrong except that I was. I was fortunate enough to have seen Robert Cray at The Rainbow Tavern in Seattle when he was making his move, the first few shows full but nothing compared to the eventual lines-around-the-block phenomenon which raised eyebrows and ended up in major label success. Cray was indeed impressive and the night I saw his band it was sans blues harpist extraordinaire Curtis Salgado which had more than a few of the audience members miffed. I couldn't understand why because Cray plugged in and smoked the place with a potpourri of blues, soul and funk as good as anything I'd heard to that point.
So, what am I saying? Phil Gates is another Robert Cray? Not really, but working my way through this album I can't help but relive certain moments of that night because Gates is one hell of a guitarist and has the same reverence Cray showed that night, and that is a lot. And, like Cray, Gates borrows from a wide range of genres to make his point. One can hear a slight zydeco touch on Get Around to Me which whispers New Orleans and Houston, picks like a natural born Nashvillain on Evening Train and has an R&B flair on Addicted To the Blues straight out of the early King Records days. Blues swing? I Never Knew. Blues shuffle? Road Shufflin', an instrumental walk through the dog park.
Gates packs twelve originals onto this disc, every one steeped in the blues and every one bearing his mark. What he lacks in voice (he is good, but no Robert Cray, but then that is not necessarily a bad thing), he more than makes up for with his guitar. He has the ability to make that guitar moan, dance, bark and cry and sometimes does it all in the same song. And he does it with the standard lineup—guitar, bass, drums and keyboards (Man, I love that Hammond sound, even when it is just used for backup). That, my friends, is how they do it at the roadhouse. And this, my friends, is roadhouse blues—Phil Gates-style. What can I say? It sells a hell of a lot of beer.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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