It's refreshing to find Matt Woodburn and Kat in the Hat leading the pack in this year's voting. The Billerica-based band doesn't belong to the Boston blues/R&B elite, nor do its members include a technically astonishing teenager on guitar. There haven't been any triumphs at the annual Harpers Ferry Boston Battle of the Blues Bands in the band's past. No résumé puffery. No BS. Just night after night delivering the goods in clubs, winning over audiences in Beantown (Faneuil Hall's Marketplace Café is their local haunt on most Tuesdays) and as far away as Florida. Guitarist-vocalist Matt Woodburn and his support team -- wife Cheryl Arena on Little Walter-influenced harmonica, Ernest LaRouche on drums, and David Hull on bass -- carry the torch for high-quality electric blues, with an emphasis on exuberant Texas-style rockin'. Sure, Woodburn was showily idolatrous of Stevie Ray Vaughan when he and Arena formed the band five years ago, but these days he possesses a deep, husky singing voice and dazzling hot guitar style all his own. Kat in the Hat's self-released debut CD, Time Keeps Rollin' (from Arena Management, 0 Durrant Court, Billerica, MA 01821), is packed with 12 originals full of grit, fieriness, and sensuality.
-- Frank-John Hadley