Bill Blue plays the same kind of blue-collar rock'n roll that has made Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen superstars and Graham Parker and the Iron City Houserockers critical favorites. All these artists draw heavily on old rhythm & blues to voice the frustrations of shift workers and to release their energy. Last night at the Cellar Door, Blue used a new five-man lineup to build the frustrations to a feverish pitch and release them with explosive force.
"Can't Get No Gas" was about cursing your job all week and then when you want to drive to your girlfriend's house on the weekend, all the gas stations are closed. It started out as a joke with a catchy tune. But trumpeter Steve Snyder and saxophonist Rocky Oliverio pumped up the Memphis horn riff and Blue started growling the lyrics in his raspy voice. Soon the song was about all petty annoyances and the fierce feelings they inspire.
Many of Blue's original tunes became mini-dramas in the same way. During "Hard Work," Blue lapsed into a rambling monologue about all the things he wanted and how hard it is to get them. Glenn Pavone's guitar fills upped the ante for each new verse, and the rhythm section built each song to a big climax.
For a band still playing the regional bar circuit, this Richmond sextet performed with unexpected poise and impact. They return to the Cellar Door tonight.