It would be hard for even the most diehard blues fans to come up with over two or three lap steel blues guitarists. Hop Wilson and L. C. Robinson spring to mind, and Sonny Rhodes has continued the tradition. However, beginning in the
1960s, Freddie Roulette rose to prominence with several appearances on various albums. He accompanied Luther Allison on his first recordings for Delmark (two great sides on the
Sweet Home Chicago anthology), Earl Hooker (notably Two Bugs and a Roach on Arhoolie), and Charlie Musselwhite
(Tennessee Woman), and was showcased on the Blue Thumb album Chicago Blues
Stars. His sound was different from the other lap steel blues players, sometimes taking on an almost ethereal quality, then diving off into uncharted territory with a looping solo where all you could do as a listener was hang on for dear life. His sound, which mixed blues, country & western, and even Hawaiian music, was instantly recognizable once you heard him, and he always left you breathless, begging for more.
This CD has a relaxed feel, like an actual jam session, with Kent and the Gents, plus Chico Banks on guitar, providing steady, unobtrusive support, and it's clearly Roulette's show. There are ten tracks, all mostly familiar covers except for two Roulette originals (the title cut and the instrumental, "Freddie's Funk"). The Albert King influence is obvious, both in song selection ("Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven," "You're Gonna Need Me," and a ten and a half minute version of "Laundromat Blues," which includes a lengthy dialogue between Fred and his guitar) and in Roulette's gruff vocals.
Though he's never sung much previously, Roulette acquits himself pretty well here, but vocally, he won't make you forget the original versions of these songs. It's his mastery of the lap steel that brings you back for additional listening. His unique fretwork
(the version of "Sleepwalk" is simply beautiful) leaves you waiting excitedly for what he's going to bring to each of the other songs, and you won't be disappointed by any of them.
--- Graham Clarke
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