Friday, March 02, 2012

Kilborn Alley's Strong Fourth Album

The Chicago based Kilborn Alley return with a new recording for the Blue Bella label, 4. This quartet is comprised of Andrew Duncanson on vocals and guitar; Josh Stimmel on guitar; Chris Breen on bass; and Ed O’Hara on drums. On this, their fourth album, they are joined by Gary Hundt on harmonica; Vince Salerno on saxophone and Travis Reed on piano on several tracks. Reviewing a prior release, Tear Chicago Down, I wrote in 2008 that Kilborn Alley plays “inspired and are far removed from those that slavishly copy the old masters as well as the one-dimensional guitar-rockers.” Much can be said of the new recording, the band’s fourth (hence the title).

Produced by Nick Moss, 4 is comprised solely of originals that the band members’ wrote. The material is solid and the performances blend the classic Chicago blues sound that is at the groups root with some funk and soul. The opening ‘Rents House Boogies opens things with an Eddie Taylor-styled boogie blues with Hundt’s harmonica adding embellishments to the strong groove the band lays down. The shuffle, Wandering, also features Hundt’s harmonica behind the easy rocking groove and some stinging, and rocking guitar fills. On both songs, Duncanson distinguishes himself as a vocalist imparting a yearning quality to the performance.

Couple of Days (Change My Ways) has a melody and lyric suggestive of some of Tyrone Davis’ recordings with the band ably handling the funky groove, while Fast Heart Beat, sports a funky groove and stingy guitar suggestive of Buster Benton and Magic Slim. Reed’s organ and Salerno’s sax contribute to the mood on the soulful ballad You Were My Woman, with an outstanding vocal. Good Advice is another soulful performance, while on the hard-hitting Sitting On the Bank, they get back to their deep Chicago roots with a melody derived from Rolling and Tumbling. On Dressed Up Messed Up, they kick up some rock and roll with Reed adding some rollicking piano.

In addition to the solid songs, there is an instrumental, Argyles and a Do-Rag, allowing Duncanson and Stimmel to display their contrasting guitar styles. Going Hard, a lengthy late-night, slow blues that builds with intensity over its ten plus minutes. It is the closing number of these wonderfully performed and recorded fresh, blues performances.

Blue Bella provided the review copy. Here is Kilborn Alley in performance.

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