Roomful of Blues Singer Brings Soul to Iconic Band

Singer Philip Pemberton and crew of the longstanding blues band will play the Riverhead Blues Festival Saturday, infusing soul into the ever-changing lineup.

Be prepared for a Roomful of Blues outdoors at the this weekend.

This horn-laden eight-piece outfit was founded back in 1967 by guitarist Duke Robillard and pianist Al Copley in Rhode Island and has been lead by noted soul singer Phil Pemberton for the past two years. And they are as diverse as ever, interpreting classic blues, swing, jazz, and soul covers mixed in with their own tunes to please crowds of all types. They’ll be headlining Saturday night’s Riverhead Blues Festival at 8:45 p.m. at the outdoor stage.

Pemberton, a Massachusetts native, says singing with Roomful of Blues has been a dream of his for years and, with a background in classic soul, he believes he’s a good fit.

“We were doing a lot of good classic soul, Motown sort of stuff,” he said of his previous band. “Roomful of Blues tends to get tagged as a swing band primarily, but we really have a good handle on rock, soul, R&B, swing … we really do run the gambit.”

Pemberton says that Roomful of Blues has allowed a lot of room for him to shine as a vocalist and for him to put his own stamp on the band’s sound.

“They have a defined style now but there is room for expansion,” he said.  “This band caters to the vocalist, and I feel I’m just another tool in the repertoire of good music.”

Guitarist Chris Vachon has been the band’s lead instrumentalist since 1996. Along with new members, bassist John Turner, trumpeter Doug Woolverton, longer standing members keyboardist Travis Colby, drummer Ephraim Lowell, baritone and tenor saxophonist Mark Earley, tenor and alto saxophonist Rich Lataille , Roomful of Blues continues to fill dance floors all over the world in 2012.

And with a new CD of originals in the works, Pemberton said he hopes to continue to see crowds as diverse as ever flock to Roomful of Blues shows.

“We played a festival in Germany a few weeks back, and there were 10 year old kids getting out there and dancing,” he said. “It’s crazy in the states too — I saw 19 year old girls at BB King’s in New York but there was also a 73-year-old dad with his grown kids at the show. It’s always a cool, multigenerational thing.”


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