Concord Records 2014
12 tracks; 59 minutes
KWS has form on the classic blues front, having produced the CD/DVD Ten Days Out and a live album with guests including Hubert Sumlin, Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith and Bryan Lee. He is often seen as a rock-blues figure but that is far from the case here as he and his band give us 15 tracks of blues covers from the likes of all three Kings, SRV, Bo Diddley and Howling Wolf.
The core band is second to none with superb vocalist Noah Hunt, Chris Layton (Double Trouble) on drums, Tony Franklin on bass and Riley Osbourne on keys. Guests include Joe Walsh, Warren Haynes, Keb Mo’, Robert Randolph, Ringo Starr, Kim Wilson and The Rebirth Brass Band.
The horns add punch to several tracks and there is some great harp too, for instance on “I Live The Life I Love”, which must be Kim as he is the only harp player noted. Throughout the album KWS plays with great fluency and feel and Noah Hunt sings really well, but here are some selected highlights.
The three King covers are excellent as KWS manages to sound like each of the masters in turn. The album hits the ground running with a stunning version of Freddie’s “Palace Of The King” with the horns really pushing the pace.
BB is represented by an extended slow blues “You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now” which has a late-night feel from Riley’s relaxed piano and KWS’s very BB style guitar.
To complete the trio Albert’s “Born Under A Bad Sign” benefits from a full production with the horns prominent and Noah’s vocal outstanding. SRV’s “The House Is Rockin’” is great with Chris Layton reproducing his drum track that drove the original, Riley’s piano pumping and KWS rocking out superbly – as good as the original!
The piano is also to the fore in a different style on “Looking Back” where Riley’s pounding piano launches KWS into an exciting solo.
There is more rousing guitar on “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” and the NO rhythms of “Trick Bag” both offer the opportunity for Noah to demonstrate his soulful side.
“Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy” works well with the trumpet pushing the song along though the lyrics sound a bit strange in the mouth of the slender Noah whose vocals at times recall Paul Rodgers and no more so than on the funky version of “Cut Me Loose” here.
The key thing when producing an album of covers is to respect the originals but add something of your own and the KWS Band achieve that here. This is probably their strongest release in a blues style yet and well worth the attention of blues fans out there. Recommended!