It often seems that every other bar in North America has a different band reviving old blues and soul songs. Few bands get it right, however, and fewer still have the knack (and finances) to revive the precision of the full-throated horn sections of the old bands. Yet last night at the Wax Museum, Vancouver's Powder Blues and Washington's Junior Cline & the Recliners each showed off a three-man horn section. Swinging together in punchy bursts and fat unison swells, the horns added a harmonic and textural fullness that most blues revival bands lack.
The Powder Blues have had a platinum album in Canada but only made their Washington debut last night. The septet is led by chief songwriter Tom Lavin, whose disarming conversational lead vocals and singing guitar recalled B.B. King without copying him. Although he played fast, daring solos, Lavin always swung. The rest of his excellent band followed his example as they romped through fresh-sounding standards and timeless-sounding originals.
Junior Cline is a diminutive vocalist with the gravelly, convincing voice of a Levon Helm. Cline's octet is marked by unusual rapport and discipline for a local bar band. If their versions of Bobby Bland and Wilson Pickett songs didn't top the originals (how could they), they didn't suffer by the comparison.