12 songs – 52 minutes
Look My Way is a very curious release from Ken Tucker: at times outstanding but at other times missing the target by some considerable distance. Featuring 12 self-written blues and blues-rock songs, Tucker has a warm, gravely voice (making the track “Brother Whiskey, Sister Nicotine” all the more believable) and he receives solid support from Virgil Franklin on bass, keys and sax and Russell Tucker on drums. He is also an imaginative guitar player, dialing in a wide range of different tones throughout the album, from the thick, ZZ Top-esque overdrive of “Street Walkin’ Woman” or “Simone”, to the melodic slide of “Look My Way” or the reverb-drenched single coil tone of “Hello Mr. Park Bench”.
The lyrics to a number of songs indicate that Tucker is a thoughtful songwriter, using different perspectives or images whilst still mining traditional blues themes of love, loss and lust in songs like “Hello Mr. Park Bench” or “Coal Shed Blues”. The opening riff of “Honey Pot” is distinctively memorable, with its slight hint of The Beatles’ “Come Together”. And “Best Bad Habit” has a striking Duran Duran-like funk guitar riff in the verse before erupting into a punchy rock chorus: “When it comes to you, girl, you’re the best damn habit I ever had.”
Further, Tucker at times turns in top drawer solos such as in “What I Need”, where he sounds like an unholy alliance of Billy Gibbons and Carlos Santana.
According to his curiously half-finished website, Tucker has nearly four decades of professional experience as a guitarist, songwriter, and performer. Which makes the fact that he released Look My Way in its current form all the more surprising. Undermining all the good points noted above, the production throughout the album is muddy and flat but even that can’t disguise the sloppy playing that surfaces on a number of tracks. Songs like “Nobody But You” suffer from the guitar and the rhythm section playing slightly conflicting rhythms and a number of Tucker’s guitar solos feature missed notes, notes not bent to pitch and licks played off the beat. All of which, of course, can be effective emotional conduits in a blues band. And in a live setting are very common, but not usually noticeable in the heat of the moment. On a more permanent medium such as a CD, however, they can sound jarring and distracting to the listener. And as a result they undermine the good points on the album. Look My Way sounds more like a rough demo than a professional CD release.
Ken Tucker has the songs, he has the voice, and he plainly can play some fine guitar, but he has done himself no favors with the release of Look My Way. With more sympathetic production and a closer focus on the actual performances, this could have been a very enjoyable album. As it is, it is no more than an indication of potential wasted.