Back in 1996, I wrote "Dallas, Texan Smokin’ Joe Kubek’s icy demeanor on stage masks the incendiary flavor of his guitar, while B’Nois King provides a contrasting affable stage presence, and his solid rhythm guitar and jazzier guitar leads are combined with some fine singing, somewhat suggestive of a cool Otis Rush.” I have seen them a number of times since and their music continues to display this contrast of styles that also is the foundation for the distinctiveness of their music. This mixing of different approaches may also explain their appeal. Kubek brings his sizzling, trebly, twangy guitar while King soulfully delivers the songs against a solid rhythm section that can rock steady and still swing. Additionally the pair always bring fine songs melodic and lyrical hooks to each recording with interesting lyrics that mix humor, irony and a perceptive view of life and human relationships.
Kubek and King have a recent Alligator CD “Have Blues Will Travel,” that continues in this vein. The title track opens this disc and illustrates their songwriting craft with King tells his story about having the time of his life with his girlfriend and then discovers his wife is at the club’s door, and then after losing his job the next day, he decides its time to travel. Similarly, while he “Get You Out Of My Blood” he still can’t get his women out his mind with a catchy accompaniment that uses a neat repeated guitar riff. A hyper-charged Lightnin’ Hopkins riff opens “RU4 Real?” before Kubek takes a short searing solo against a lazy, if emphatic, groove, before King tells about this woman with Botox in her jaw, collagen in her lips and silicon in her chest, which has him wondering if this woman is for real. Whining slide guitar sets the tone for “Payday in America,” as King, who hates his job, can’t wait to cut loose and get some drinking done. Kubek has plenty of space to showcase his slide playing here. Other hot grooves include “My Space Or Your?,” with amusing lyrics employing computer terminology as a double entendre. King asks his lady, “can I text you baby, I want to do something digital to you,” and wants to show her his hard drive so they can download all night long. King takes the jazzier 1st guitar solo here followed by Kubek with his heavier tone. Next up King offers a bit of advice that if one goes to bed after a fight, one better “Sleep With One Eye Open.” In addition to King’s soulful vocals here, they both offer some tough guitar.
The mix of terrific material and strong performances make “Have Blues Will Travel” another first-rate release by Kubek and King that is easily recommended.
Afterword: Smokin’ Joe Kubek and B’Nois King were scheduled to appear at a DC Blues Society event in November, and I was asked, to help promote the appearance, if I could review their most recent release, “Have Blues Will Travel,” which had been issued several months earlier this year. I contacted Alligator Records who were so kind to provide me with a review copy and I drafted this review and submitted it. Subsequently, Kubek and King canceled the scheduled appearance, and the review is not scheduled to be published in the Blues Society's newsletter. I would have run this review in any event. Unfortunately I have no event to link it to help promote, but that happens. In any event, I look forward to teh two appearing in the Washington, DC area in the not too distant future.