Blues Bytes


August 2019

Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith
Drop The Hammer
Big Eye Records

Kenny Smith

You could say that Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith was raised on the blues. His father, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, served as drummer for Muddy Waters for over 18 years, so there was much available to be absorbed by anyone in the household that was intereste. The younger Smith was definitely interested, carving out his own niche in the Chicago blues scene over the past couple of decades, recording and performing with just about everybody who’s anybody in the blues world.

Smith’s long-awaited debut release as a front man, Drop The Hammer (Big Eye Records), is a musical treasure chest for fans of both traditional and contemporary blues. Joining Smith, who plays drums, of course, and provides lead vocals, on this stellar set are a powerful group of second-generation bluesmen, including guitarists Greg Guy (son of Buddy Guy), Guy King, Billy Flynn, Ari Sedar and Nelson Strange, bassist Felton Crews, keyboardist Luca Chiellini, and harmonica masters Omar Coleman and Sugar Blue. Smith is backed by a wonderful backup trio (Andrea Miologos, Dana Gordon, and Kim Johnson) and also by his children, Mae, Clara, and Theodore, on one track.

As mentioned above, this album is a mix of contemporary and traditional blues, and the contemporary blues genre is addressed right off the bat with the opener, “Head Pounder,” a fascinating track which has a Delta/Hip-Hop feel with the busy percussion arrangement and Coleman’s harmonica, as well as Flynn on sitar. The more traditional blues shuffle, “Hey Daddy,” marks the appearance of Smith’s children on backing vocals and is a real treat. The funky title track follows, a moody mid-tempo modern blues, and “Scratchin’ Your Head” mixes swamp blues (the irresistible rhythm and guitar) with gritty soul (Chellini’s greasy B3).

“What In The World” is punctuated by funky guitar work from Sedar and Guy, and “No Need Brotha’” is a superb slow blues where both guitarists get an opportunity to display their chops. “Puppet On A String” is a heady mix of funk, rock, and blues, with Sugar Blue making his presence known for the first time on this track. Crews shines on the bass here, as does Seder, and the ladies provide excellent vocal support for Smith.

“Keep On Pretending” is a fine traditional shuffle, “Living Fast” finds Smith reflecting on settling down with a good woman (Sugar Blue and Guy King guest on this one), “Second Hand Woman” is a rollicking old school blues, and the blues rocker “One Big Frown” finds Kimberly Johnson on lead vocals.

The album closes with a wonderful five minute- plus instrumental, “Moment of Silence,” featuring Flynn, King, and Seder on guitars, Coleman on harmonica, Chiellini on keys and the bedrock rhythm section of Crews and Smith in support --- an excellent way to wrap things up.

Smith is a talented songwriter and a very versatile vocalist. This is an exceptional debut release from a longtime veteran who will continue to provide us with great music like Drop The Hammer for a long time to come.

--- Graham Clarke





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