Kai Strauss & the Electric Blues All Stars – Live In Concert
CD: 14 songs, 65:54 minutes
Live in Concert. is the new release from Kia Strauss and The Electric Blues All Stars.
German artist Kai Strauss might be new to you but he has been performing for 25 years. He is a talented guitarist, vocalist and band leader. Although he and the band have toured the U.S. , most of their time is spent in Europe with home being Germany. They have earned four Blues awards, given by Bluesnews, in the past three years.
Strauss has turned out five albums in the past five years. English guitar great Otis Grand wrote the liner notes for Live in Concert. He said, “You can’t actually label him as just another European or separate him out from American artists; he’s too good for that”. “The repertoire on this CD sounds as if it came from Theresa’s Lounge in Chicago 1967” he added.
Two more thoughts about Strauss’ playing; Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records said in 2018 “Excellent playing with a lot of maturity and emotions. Blues Matters! Issue 108 that year said that “Strauss is high energy electric blues as it should be, from the heart and with punches of feeling and emotion; it’s hard to believe that he is not a blues player from Chicago or Memphis”.
The Electric Blues All Stars is a solid group of musician the blend together well. It is obvious from this live recording that they pick up each other very well and know how to read each other and keep a show flowing.
On drums is Alex Lex from Osnabrueck, Germany. He was the winner of the Living Blues drummer award in 2014. He has worked with Bob Margolin, Louisiana Red and Billy Boy Arnold.
Kevin Duvernay from Seattle, Washington is the bass player. He has played with Johnny Copeland Big Jay McNeely and Tommie Harris and Friends.
On saxophone and harmonica is Thomas Feldmann of Steinfurt, Germany. He has worked in Igor Prado’s band and Memo Gonzalez and the Bluescasters (Early in his career Strauss played with Gonzalez and band for several years).
Here are my thoughts on disc 1’s tracks. As stated in the liner notes by Mr. Grand, the album has a feel of 1967 Chicago. With most all of the songs you think of an artist from those years of the first resurgence of the Blues. “Gotta Let You Go” is a smooth groove to get a live set started. The song builds in tempo and quickly Strauss’s guitar and Feldmann’s harmonica show their prowess between verses three and four. “Highway Blues” is a slow blues with good fill between the stanzas. “Ain’t Gonna Rumble No More” reminded me of Albert Collins with an up tempo.
“Judgement Day” is a classic 12-bar progression with sizzling lead play by Strauss. “Did You Wrong” is the first song that the horns sounded out and added to the band’s impact. “Hard Life” is another classic slow blues style offering. Good guitar solo work that fits into the feel of the song. “Get the Ball Rolling” closes the first disc channeling Stevie Ray Vaughn and Johnny Winter in what I felt was the best song on this disc. Good horns and a piano solo from the “Honky Tonk” days.
“The Blues is Handmade” kicks off the second disk with the best grasp on that “67 sound” they were trying to invoke plus solid vocal work. The organ solo brings Booker T Jones to mind. Next is “This Game Ain’t Worth Playing No More” a slow ballad style number still that is true blues. Next is “Let Me Love You Baby”, an up tempo number with a good rhyme scheme in the lyrics. Tasteful guitar fills come between the rhythm lines and once again solid lead guitar.
“Put That Bottle Down” is what the title sounds like, slow blues and sad lyrics that makes you think about Robert Cray. The words and guitar give that call and response feelng. ”Got To Be Some Changes Made” has the resonance of a Gibson 335 or 355 guitar like the late B. B. King played. “I Ain’t Buying It” is a 12-bar toe-tapper that has good turn around between verse and chorus. The disc closes with “Shades of Earl” (A tribute to Ronnie Earl and Earl Hooker), with a good grasp on the feel they sought in this recording in a slow blues tune.
In all a well-constructed live show that brought out their best. If this is your first time to listen to Kia Strauss and the Electric Blues All Stars I hope you are as pleasantly surprised as I was.