Featured Album – Powerhouse (jump blues)

Powerhouse were a ’70’s jump blues band, started in Washington, DC but based in Boston. I was not familiar with them in their heyday, only learning about them a few years later when I was in a blues band. The harmonica player owned a good collection of blues and rhythm and blues and this album, Powerhouse, was one of them.

Near as I can tell, most of their repertoire was covers. But what a great band! The leader was a terrific guitarist named Tom Principato, who still plays with his own band. When I tried to find some of their stuff online, I instead found his web site. I reached out to to him to buy his CD and later, to ask if I could put a few of his songs on YouTube so I could feature the Powerhouse album. He agreed, and so, here’s the post.

First song – what else – the B.B. King tune, “Powerhouse.”

The band was based in Boston in the ’70’s which was somewhat of a hotbed of blues at the time. (Seems to be less so these days unfortunately.) The band’s singer was a sightless guy named George Leh who is, for my money, one of the best blues singers I’ve ever heard.

True story – the drummer in the band I was in eventually wound up playing for George. One night, I accompanied him to a gig. He asked George if I could sit in. I did. And we played – Sloop John B! Hardly a blues song but what the hell.

Here’s Powerhouse doing the Willie Nelson song, “Night Life.”

Principato says that when the band Crawlin’ King Snake morphed into Powerhouse, they were originally a Chicago-style blues band. But increasingly, they listened to old swing records and heard other live bands who were starting this mini-revival. (Brian Setzer did stuff like this on his own after he left Stray Cats.) I wish there were more bands like this around. I consider this absolutely some of the best stuff on earth. If I didn’t have two left feet, I would most assuredly dance to this.😂

One of the tunes Powerhouse covered was a song called “Lovin’ Machine,” by ’40’s bluesman Wynonie Harris. Harris is, along with Louis Jourdan, considered one of the early forerunners of what would become rock and roll.

Here’s “Lovin’ Machine:”

If you’re so inclined, you can find other stuff by Tom and more snippets from the album here.

9 thoughts on “Featured Album – Powerhouse (jump blues)

  1. That’s a real good version of ‘Night Life’. I love these kinds of bands. They learn their chops by playing live gigs. A lot of live gigs. I hear what your saying about the vocals. George has the voice for this music. Good piece. ‘Sloop John B’ isn’t that Beach Boys material?

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  2. I have one of the tunes from this album on my iPad. I was listening to it today and – I swear this is true – said to myself “CB should be hitting this soon.” Glad you dug it. It didn’t get the reaction I’d expected and in fact you’re the first person to comment on it. I don’t have nearly enough blues fans following this blog. But I don’t understand how it’s even possible to not love this stuff. A puzzle.

    Yeah, ‘Sloop’is a Beach Boys song. Maybe somebody can play a good solo over it but I couldn’t.

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  3. I think every city has these kinds of bands. Chicago/Boston would be a hot bed you would think. Up in my neck of the woods when CB was hitting the bars these bands kept the dance floors full and the booze flowing. And they all could play. Touring bands like the Who, Zep, Stones and various others used to sit in after their shows. Great time for live music. I’m still trying to get my head around Blues/Beach Boys. Maybe Dick Dale/Blues. Must of been a dance tune or the bartenders favorite.

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  4. Boston/Cambridge still have their share of clubs. But, alas, not as many clubs that feature blues bands. (The House of Blues, which has pictures of blues guys on the wall, never features blues bands.) The best blues club “in Boston” is actually 50 miles west of Boston. That’s where I saw Savoy Brown, Fabulous Thunderbirds, John Mayall, Coco Montoya. Just in the past year! Great club but there’s literally nothing like it in town. A shame.

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        1. That’s them. I came through the back door. ‘Morphine’. Found out Mark Sandman was in ‘Treat Her Right’ so i took the plunge. Glad I did. (Just hitting the button for a new CB take on a Boston band)

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