CD: 12 songs; 48:20 Minutes
Styles: Texas Blues, Traditional Electric Blues
2014 is the 25th anniversary of a perennial blues partnership: Texan Smokin’ Joe Kubek (leader and guitar) and Bnois King (guitar and all vocals). Since 1989, these two have very successfully combined their signature styles on fourteen other albums. What better way to celebrate this feat than with their blazing new CD, “Road Dog’s Life”? Even though it was released in 2013, there’s no better way to beat the New Year’s winter blues than to fire up these twelve selections. Ten are originals, and two are covers of songs by the world’s most famous rock groups: “Don’t Bother Me” by the Beatles and “Playing with Fire” by the Rolling Stones. Even though these two bands are international household names, road veterans Kubek and King certainly are, in the homes and hearts of blues aficionados.
What is it about them that makes them as memorable as one’s last taste of hot sauce? Is it their gritty guitar prowess, their lyrical genius, or their chemistry as a performing duo? This reviewer’s answer is “all of the above,” especially when they’re joined by renowned guest artists. Featured here are guitarist Kid Andersen, producer Randy Chortkoff and Kim Wilson on harmonica and vocals, Willie J. Campbell and Patrick Recob on electric bass, and drummer Jimi Bott. Their best efforts are these three songs, infused with the pure essence of Texas blues:
Track 01: “Big Money Sonny” – ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ can’t compare to the title character of this story: a gambler who’s so paranoid that he drives all his money around. It’s “in the trunk of his car, ‘cause he didn’t trust no bank. You know, the IRS; they would have got him, don’t you think?” “Big Money Sonny” walks a fine line between criticizing and glamorizing his actions. Let the bettor beware, but guitar fans rejoice – especially during the fast-fingered-deal solo in the middle.
Track 04: “Road Dog’s Life” – With a growling hard-rock intro, Smokin’ Joe launches into an autobiographical tale: “Everybody drinks; it’s all glitz and glory. Twelve hours on the bus? That’s another story.” Audiences may love shows, coming back for more like kids to candy, but they don’t often see the grungier aspects of a “Road Dog’s Life.” Still, Kubek and King “wouldn’t have it any other way.” Their blues passion is worth the pain.
Track 05: “K9 Blues” – Like a hound dog with its tail between its legs, our narrator here is being busted by his fiancée for ‘sniffing around’ other women: “Did she just call me a dog? Am I losing my mind? I think she just called me a canine – I mean the worst kind!” While King begs, Kim Wilson’s harmonica does the howling. This song could have been the title track, because it possesses the perfect balance of humor, catchiness and raw instrumentation.
“A Road Dog’s Life” may be difficult, but as this album proves, it has its rewards!