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September 2012

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Smokin'Joe Kubek and Bnois King
Close To The Bone
Delta Groove Music

Smokin Joe Kubek and Bnois King

Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King have enjoyed a very productive partnership since the ’80s, releasing over a dozen albums since the early ’90s, each featuring Kubek’s roaring rocking blues guitar with King’s jazzy T-Bone-esque guitar work and his traditional blues vocal style. Over the past two decades, the duo has released some interesting takes on raw-edged Texas blues, but Close To The Bone (Delta Groove Music) is their first foray into unplugged territory.

The new disc features Kubek and King, mostly on acoustic guitar, plus an all-star cast of guests, including harmonica player/producer/label chief Randy Chortkoff, harmonica players Bob Corritore, Lynwood Slim, and Pieter “Big Pete” van der Pluijim, along with guitarists Kurt Fletcher, Shawn Pittman, and Paul Size, piano player Fred Kaplan, bassist Willie J. Campbell, and drummers Jimi Bott and Jeff Scott Fleenor, who plays suitcase foot drum). In the end, however, it’s all Kubek and King front and center.

Most of the 14 songs are originals. Kubek and King are first-rate composers and these tunes don’t disappoint, with clever, original lyrics, relentless grooves, and some excellent fretwork. Standout tunes include the opener, a dazzling remake of the Ramblin’ Thomas’ classic, “Poor Boy Blues,” “Can’t Let Go,” “Keep Her Around,” a strong shuffle that features Chortkoff, Big Pete, and Corritore, “Get Out There and Get It,” with Fletcher joining the other two guitarists, and “Yankin’ My Chain” is a smooth boogie tune featuring just Kubek and King.

“Drowning In Red Ink” is a well-done tune on a timely topic, hard financial times and their effects on everyday life. “No Good Can Come of This” reunites Chortkoff and Corritore, whose torrid harp work balances Kubek and King’s guitar work perfectly. To me, “Ordinary Man” sounds like what an unplugged T-Bone Walker tune would resemble. Another standout is the cover of Texas Alexander’s “Mama’s Bad Luck Child,” a great traditional blues.

King’s vocals match the material well, just the right amount of smoothness and grit and both guitarists do excellent work with the well-chosen cast of guest artists. If you’re a fan of Kubek and King, you will enjoy this refreshing change of pace for them, but new fans will definitely want to hear more of their catalog after listening to this fine acoustic release.

--- Graham Clarke
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