Eddie Kold Band – Chicago Alley Blues
Bellaphon Records – 2020
12 Tracks; 53 minutes
German guitarist and front man, Eddie Kold (whose real name is Jorg Fennekold) has traveled to Chicago frequently over the last thirty years and clearly has a love for Chicago blues. His regular band members include Benjamin Garcia on bass, Christian Wubben on drums and Lukas Diehl on keys, but he also recently added Larry Doc Watkins on vocals. For his latest album, Kold invited several special guests from Chicago: Bernard Allison, Omar Coleman, Tom Holland and Charlie Love. Chicago Alley Blues contains nine original songs written by Fennekold or Fennekold & Watkins, and one original song by Charlie Love. The two covers featured on the album are old favorites: “Before You Accuse Me” and “Howling for My Darling.”
Kold is a talented guitarist, with a clear and beautiful sound throughout this disc. However, the best guitar can be found on the number for which Bernard Allison is playing, which is aptly titled “Blues Man”. Charlie Love’s song, “Gimme Back My Money” also stands out for the emotional way in which he delivers the vocals and harmonica. One quite cleverly written song discusses how technological advances can negatively impact our life. “Smart City Blues” describes the “Big Brother is watching” effect of these advances, noting “They know where I’m going. They know where I’ve been. They even know what state of mind I’m in. If you want to keep a secret—better hide it from yourself. Your cell phone’s always listening, and Alexa knows the rest.”
The lyrics of one other song stand out as powerful, and that is the final track, “Suicide Blues”. This song features Kold’s daughter, Millie Meckbach, playing a beautiful melody on piano, while the lyrics harshly describe the desperation people can feel at the end of a bad relationship. “If I can’t have that woman, I’m going to take my life…she took all my money. I can’t even see my kids…I found myself a tall building way across town. I’m going to jump and scream out your name before I hit the ground…If she don’t come back to me, I think I’m going to kill myself.” Frequently the blues can be therapeutic in the way the singer often seems to work through problems by the end of the song, sometimes in a humorous way. However, this song ends bleakly, and the sound of an ambulance can be heard.
Despite the talented musicians and prestigious guests, several flaws are apparent. The two cover songs are presented without any unique interpretation that would make one choose to hear these renditions rather than the originals. Additionally, some of the lyrics seem very uninspired. For example, “Just a Dream” simplistically offers, “I like the way you walk. I love to hear you baby talk.” And “Without You” somewhat unimaginatively states “If I ever lost you, I don’t know what I would do. My soul would be empty. My world would be empty…in this game of love we always play to win. Sometimes things go wrong, and we have to start again.” Additionally, Watkins’ vocals do not appear to adequately represent his abilities and do not evoke the same emotional response that comes from hearing him live or even watching video clips on You Tube. While some solid musicianship is offered on this album, it would seem that fans of the Eddie Kold Band might be somewhat disappointed that this album doesn’t quite live up to the magic felt watching this band perform live.