Kevin Greenwood – She Knocks Me Out
BlueK Media Group
15 songs – 70 minutes
She Knocks Me Out is Kevin Greenwood’s first CD release at the age of 72 and, boy, does he have some stories to tell. As a young blues fan, harmonica player and music journalist, he interviewed and befriended some of the giants of the genre, including B.B. King, James Cotton, Junior Wells and Louis Myers (there’s a wonderful photo in the excellent liner notes of Greenwood interviewing Howlin’ Wolf in 1971), in addition to sharing the stage with the likes of John Lee and Earl Hooker, Magic Sam and Hound Dog Taylor (also documented in a photograph). The demands of raising a family led Greenwood to put aside his love of the blues for a “regular” 9-to-5 job for several decades before he started playing the music again in 2008.
The album comprises 15 self-written songs with Greenwood on vocals and harmonica and a cast of veritable West Coast legends backing him up. 15 musicians appear in various line-ups, with consistency provided by Robi Bean on drums throughout and bass shared between Kedar Roy and Jed Beyer. Together these three lay down a series of swinging, irresistible grooves (check out Bean’s efforts on the title track in particular). Other musicians featured include guitarists Steve Freund, Niko Hernandez, Johnny “Cat” Soubrand and Eric Selenger, Kevin Zuffi on keyboards, John Peterson on harmonica and Jack Sanford, Doug Rowan and John Lull on saxophone. In addition, Bob Welsh and Brett Brandstatt provide both guitars and keyboards, while Beyer also adds guitar to “Devil In Disguise”.
The resulting music is quite superb, from the subtle dynamics of “New Shoes” to the captivating swing of “Two Too Good” and the lonesome late-night groove of “Checkout Blues”, which features just Greenwood’s harmonica, Beyer’s upright bass and Hernandez’s country blues guitar. As the protagonist in the song drily notes, “life is like a hotel, and don’t you have no doubt. Keep doing what you’re doing and baby, you will soon be checkin’ out.”
Greenwood writes songs in a classic blues style with a discernible West Coast flavour, albeit with strong hints of the more muscular Chicago style (Beyer and Welsh’s channelling of Robert Lockwood Jr. and Luther Tucker on “Devil In Disguise” is sublime, while Welsh’s Muddy-style slide guitar on “Can’t Get Away From The Blues” is spot on). Lyrically, he addresses standard topics of love, lust, heartbreak and yearning, but he often manages to offer a slightly different perspective, such as on “Two Too Good.” He also sings with an appealing vulnerability and is a fine harp player, but this is not a harmonica-centric album. Greenwood leaves plenty of space for his bandmates to stretch out on a series of solo spots, giving the sense of a real band of equals.
As one might expect from a writer, Greenwood’s liner notes are informative and articulate, talking about the music, the musicians and the songs themselves.
With pristine production by Greenwood and recording by Adam Reed at Reed’s Recordings in Campbell CA, She Knocks Me Out is a hugely impressive and enjoyable album. Here’s to a follow up release as quickly possible. In the meantime, buy this.