Self-Release – 2015
11 tracks; 50 minutes
Santa Fe, New Mexico native Ken Valdez now calls St Paul, Minnesota home. On this release Ken wrote seven of the songs and had a hand from some illustrious collaborators – Doyle Bramhall II and Curtis Salgado get co-write credits on a track each – and there are two covers. The material appears to have been recorded over several sessions so there are quite a large number of musicians involved: Paul Peterson and Tucker Sterling Jensen are on bass, Mario Dawson, Pancho Lopez, Michael Bland, Joe Diaz and Jay Corkran share the drum stool and Brant Leeper, Ricky Peterson and Adam Daniel add keyboards.
Additional players include Greg Jennings on slide guitar and Kevin BF Burt on harp on one cut each with Hazel Miller, Jason Peterson Delaire, Mary Cutrufello and Shalo Lee on backing vocals. Ken handles lead vocals and guitar and there are also guest spots for guitar slingers Chris Duarte and Eric Gales. The style is definitely at the rocky end of the blues with plenty of screaming guitar leads, as on “Sometimes” with Eric Gales’ buzzsaw guitar or “Make It” on which Ken needs no assistance in the guitar stakes. Chris’ contribution is on the shuffle “Sugar Shakin’ Boogaloo” that rocks along well.
Ken’s gruff vocals suit the blues rock style that is the main element on this album. The title track is a rock tune with a rousing chorus and almost prog rock organ work from Ricky; “Rio Grande Blues” may have the ‘B’ word in the title but it is also high energy rock with plenty of Ken’s trademark guitar.
Curtis Salgado’s Rn’B influence pervades “Far From Gone” which was, for this reviewer, the standout track here. Ken drops the pace, his acoustic guitar well supported by Greg Jennings’ slide work, on a tale of barroom woe in the late Mike Jordan’s “Whiskey And Water”. Willie Dixon’s “Wang Dang Doodle” has been covered far too often and Ken’s histrionic version did not appeal.
Those who are keen on blues-rock with plenty of revved-up guitar may well like this one.