Paul Gabriel has been a regional treasure in New England, who in a career that spans over 40 years, has appeared on three albums by legendary singer/songwriter Harry Chapin, played slide guitar on Rory Block’s Grammy-nominated album, Mama’s Blues, toured with Michael Bolton and recorded and toured with his several of his own bands. His friend (and mentor), Duke Robillard has produced Gabriel’s new release, What’s the Chance … on Shining Stone Records. On this he steps into the spotlight on an album of 13 tracks that showcases him as a distinctive, bluesy guitarist, a talented songwriter and a master of diverse musical styles.
On What's the Chance…, Gabriel is backed by a core band of Billy Bileca on bass, Nick Longo on drums and Larry “Buzzy” Fallstrom on keyboards. Special guests on the new album include Duke Robillard on guitars and background vocals; former Butterfield Blues Band alumnus Mark Naftalin on piano; Bruce Bears on keyboards; Steve Pastir on guitar; and the Roomful of Blues Horns consisting of Rich Lataille on alto/tenor sax, Mark Earley on tenor/baritone sax, and Doug Woolverton on trumpet. With the exception of Chris Kenner’s R&B classic Something You Got, and bassist Bileca’s C.M.C., Gabriel penned the songs on this.As Gabriel observes, he first saw Duke Robillard perform with a new band, Roomful of Blues, around 1968 and Duke became an influence and a mentor. Gabriel’s music certainly will not provide any surprises for those familiar with early Roomful or Duke and The Pleasure Kings. Gabriel’s Old Time Ball, is a jump blues clearly derived from T-Bone Walker’s T-Bone Shuffle, and is sung and played with a nice graceful swing. Ride, Ride, Ride is an appealing bluesy rocker while the title track is a reflective rootsy R&B tinged ballad. 328 Chauncy Street is a punchy, jazzy instrumental with Robillard and Bears (on organ) taking solos before Gabriel comes in swinging with a bit of buzz-saw in his tone. Baby I Wish is a nice uptown blues original with a touch of Percy Mayfield’s Tangerine and Brunswick recordings in the arrangement with Bears and Gabriel taking tough solo breaks.
Devil’s Daughter is an original lyric about a gold digger, set to a melody derived from Nobody Knows You When Your Down and Out, with Mark Naftalin on piano, followed by a fine original jump blues “All That Time Gone.” Bileca’s C.M.C. provides Gabriel to display a jazzier side of his guitar playing he as navigates the changes of this interesting original. While the title of Roomful of Blues, may be inspired by the band, the song is not a homage to the band. The song has a base line that evokes Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone. Gabriel, having been lied to once again, pleads to be taken from that room full of blues. Rich Lataille takes a marvelous tenor sax solo on what may be the standout track on this album. Fine At’Tire, is a change of pace as Gabriel only backed by Naftalin’s piano, recalls a visit to Memphis.
A relaxed shuffle Spoda Be, closes out What's the Chance … , ending a varied and most appealing blues recording with some roots extensions. Strong material, solid playing mixed with the leader’s warm, heartfelt vocals makes for an impressive release.
A publicist supplied me with a review copy. Here is Paul Gabriel in performance.