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November 2022

Yates McKendree
Buchanan Lane
Qualified Records

Yates McKendree

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 and experience.

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 guitar solo.

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 background vocals.

"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 organ.

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



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