CD Review of Blood Brothers by Smokin' Joe Kubek & Bnois King
Recommended if you like
Stevie Ray Vaughn, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Albert Collins
Alligator Records
Smokin' Joe Kubek &
Bnois King:
Blood Brothers

Reviewed by Mojo Flucke, PhD


he reasons this duo’s stood the test of a couple decades' worth of cranking out awesome Texas blues are simple and twofold: One, Kubek is a clear heir to Stevie Ray Vaughan, at once polished, rough, and monumentally gifted; and two, singer Bnois King's got what every other cookie-cutter, white-boy Texas blues group doesn't – a sophisticated jazz education and delivery. Together, they make some damn fine blues music for the ages, setting the bar for all the other folks coming out of those parts.

Blood Brothers, like Eddy Clearwater's new release slated for the same day, is the duo's first on Alligator, after several years in the Rounder fold and another couple on Blind Pig. The record features the usual dose of Kubek guitar fire and brimstone – Stevie Ray Vaughan fans who still are looking to fill the void his untimely passing left in 1990 would be well served to check out this record. The slide work on "Don't Lose My Number" complements a Texas rocker with all the force of Double Trouble in its prime; on the instrumental "Freezer Burn" – which has to be some sort of tribute Albert "The Iceman" Collins – Kubek  puts on a clinic on playing modern electric blues with just enough juke-joint dirt mixed with screaming Hendrix highs. It's the type of blues rapture that old fans have come to know and love from this guy.

Literally, though, that's just half of the coolness of the duo: Bnois King is a different kind of blues dude. He's sung about all kinds of thoroughly modern topics Elmore James just wouldn't understand, like "Damn Traffic," off Take Your Best Shot a decade ago. On the new record, he sings about karma instead of voodoo or black cats crossing your path; and instead of how it's time to pass the bottle and drown your troubles – blues guys were doing this long before the party people of the 1960s rock world came late to the table – he cuts against the grain and sings "Stop Drinking." Then there's the song not about growing old, but the midlife crisis. The subtle twists on old themes – combined with his Courvoisier-smooth voice – keeps this tired old electric Texas blues stuff sounding fresh as ever.

Not that it wouldn't stand on his own; Kubek could scorch the balls off of most guitar rivals. Put him up against a Johnny Lang or Kenny Wayne Shepherd or other overrated pretty-boy pipsqueak the major labels might toss out in a cutting contest, and he'd solo them right into the dumpster where they belong. Add to his ferocious blues bluster the smooth sounds of Bnois King's voice, and you’ve got yourself one heck of an act. This record's just as good as the others – go out and support indie blues already! By the way, if they stop anywhere near your town, go see them; not only are the tickets fairly cheap, but these hardworking dudes put on one hell of a show. You'll love it whether you're a blues devotee or you just happen to like good music from a polished stage act.

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