I'll just say it right at the start of this review --- Yates
McKendree has star potential in the music business. At 21, the son
of longtime blues piano player Kevin McKendree, has released his
first album, Buchanan Lane (Qualified Records). Perhaps it's too much to say that it
is now a candidate for best album of the year, but the younger McKendree
should at least beat the field for debut artist of the year.
McKendree grew up amidst the music scene, playing guitar
at venues in Nashville before even reaching his teens and helping in the
production of recordings at his dad's Rock House studio while in high
school. I first became aware of his talents when he was one of the guest
guitarists on the very fine album, Rose-Colored Glasses, Part 1,"
by Teresa James & the Rhythm Tramps. That was just a glimpse into his
potential, but now we have 13 outstanding cuts featuring McKendree's
guitar playing and singing on Buchanan Road, named after the
street on which the McKendree family resides. Already an accomplished
guitar player, McKendree also shows potential as a vocalist, with
tone and range in his voice that should continue to get better with age
Buchanan Road opens "Out Crowd," a jazzy rhumba
instrumental influenced by Ramsey Lewis' 1065 hit, "The In Crowd," with
Kevin McKendree shining on piano on this number. Yates shows off his
guitar chops on the B.B King original "Ruby Lee," which has its own
Latin sound interspersed within. Lots of horns coming in throughout the
number. "Wise" is a slow blues original that shows that McKendree can
handle vocals on a stirring number while also laying down impressive
blues guitar licks. Extra bonus is the horns providing a rich background.
McKendree makes it obvious with his guitar playing that
he has been heavily influenced by B.B. King, especially so on the slow
12-bar blues "No Justice," What's impressive is that he also played
organ, bass and drums on this number. Holy cow, this kid is talented!
"Brand New Neighborhood" is a jumping blues
showing a lighter side to his blues, especially as he's pursuing
the chick next door. The mood turns funky on the mid-tempo "Always A
First Time," done originally by Earl King. McKendree gets a dirtier tone
from his guitar here, and we again hear the great horn section of Jim Hoke, Andrew Carney and Roland Barber adding to the fullness of the
sound behind the front line. It's a race to the finish between
McKendree's guitar and the horns.
B.B. King isn't McKendree's only big influence, as he
covers a pair of T-Bone Walker songs, "Papa Ain't Salty" and the slow
jazzy blues "No Reason," with the latter getting the intro from the horn
section before McKendree's tasteful vocals followed by an extremely hot
The elder McKendree opens the funky "Qualified" with strong
piano before young McKendree comes in with Memphis-style guitar effects
on this Doctor John tune. As much as we like the instrumental parts
here, McKendree's convincing
voice shows more power and the McCrary Sisters provide Raelettes-style
"It Hurts To Love Someone" takes us down to the swamps
and bayous of Louisiana on this slow blues done originally by Guitar
Slim, and the band keeps the same tempo on the jazzy "Wine, Wine, Wine"
that is introduced by papa McKendree's tasteful piano. With an even
slower pace, Tampa Red's "Please Mr. Doctor" gives both McKendrees
plenty of opportunities to stretch out on their respective instruments.
Wrapping it all up into such an appetizing package is a
funky instrumental, "Voodoo," with father and son both tearing it up
with their solos, this time Kevin moving over to his Hammond
The blues business is in good hands when artists as
young as Yates McKendree can produce great music at such a young
age. I can't wait to hear more from this prodigy. In the meantime, I'll
be listening to Buchanan Road repeatedly, and so should you.
--- Bill Mitchell