Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kubek and King Do Some Roadhouse Research

After a number of well-regarded discs for Bullseye Blues, Smokin’ Joe Kubek and B'nois King have a new disc, Roadhouse Research, on Blind Pig. The Texas pair combine Kubek’s muscular guitar playing with King’s soulful singing (suggestive of a cool Otis Rush) and slightly jazzier fretwork and tasteful rhythm playing. The contrast of Kubek’s in-your-face guitar and King’s vocals make for an appealing combination. 

The ten originals include some typical lyrical themes about hard times, women and the philosophical Better Be Getting It On, a hot shuffle whereKing tells us the while life may seem like a mystery, one better can move on while Kubek taking a strong, blistering solo. It perhaps is unsettling to hear King’s slightly distorted vocals on the opening Healthy Mama while Kubek’s soloing on Crying Shame would not have sounded out-of-place on some psychedelic recordings three decades ago. 

Kubek pulls all the stops on the slow blues, Runnin’ Blind, before King sings about having his woman running through his mind, but moving way too fast. Make It Right has a nice latin groove and a bit laid back feel for King’s plea that all he needs is his woman to make it right. Adding to the album’s variety is Kubek’s forceful slide playing on I Need More. 

Kubek is such a strong player that he can avoid the excesses that otherwise could make his tone and frenetic fretwork come off as overbearing. He also maintains an ear out while King sings so he never overwhelms the soulful singing. The result here is a varied and entertaining blues recording.

This review originally appeared in the June 2003 DC Blues Calendar although I have made some minor changes from what originally appeared.  Here is the pair with some roadhouse Texas blues.

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