"IN ORBIT," the latest offering by Tom Principato and Powerhouse, takes its name from one of two instrumentals that appear on the album. Both display Principato's way with a Telecaster (no surprise there) and his sure grasp of blues, R&B and jazz traditions. Colorfully arranged and sharply focused, the tunes are far removed from the idle or flashy exercises so many guitar phenoms are content to record these days, but then, "In Orbit" isn't really about guitarmanship; it's a lot more ambitious than that.
Of course, listeners who expect to hear Principato flex his fingers won't come away disappointed. The album is dotted with alternately biting and fluid solos, and features Principato at his blues best on the slow-burning instrumental "In a Dream." What really sets the album apart, though, are the crisp, spirited, uncluttered arrangements, featuring bassist Jeff Sarli, keyboardist Kevin McKendree, drummer Big Joe Maher and several guest horn players. Principato contributes a few effective vocals to go along with his guitar work, but it's Maher who really delivers the goods as the band's vocalist, especially on "Same Old Blues," and when he alludes to the old Ruth Brown hit "Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean" on "Mama, Your Daughter Lied."
Not all the songs click -- "My Baby Don't Love No One But Me" wears thin fast -- but overall "In Orbit" is kept aloft by a solid band playing solid tunes.