Kilborn Alley Blues Band – The Tolono Tapes | Album Review

Kilborn Alley Blues Band – The Tolono Tapes

Run It Back Records – 2017

12 tracks; 50 minutes

One might imagine that being based in Champaign, Illinois would inhibit a band’s potential but the Kilborn Alley has thrived in their college town background, issuing four previous albums and being serial nominees in the Blues Blast and Blues Music Awards, including Blues Blast wins for The Sean Costello Rising Star Award in 2009 and Song Of The Year in 2010 (“Better Off Now”). This collection also shows that a visiting blues artist may well get the opportunity to lay down some music while in the Kilborns’ home patch as a slew of great blues musicians add their talents to these recordings which were made in three separate sessions in 2015/6 at Matt Talbot’s studio in Tolono, Il, hence the title. Andrew Duncanson on guitar and vocals, Josh Rasner Stimmel on guitar and Chris Breen on bass have been playing together since high school and are joined on these recordings by drummer Aaron ‘A Train’ Wilson plus a variety of guests including Henry Gray, Monster Mike Welch, Jackie Scott and Bob Corritore. There are nine Kilborn originals here (three reworked from earlier albums), two by Jackie Scott and one by Henry Gray.

The album opens with a reworking of “Fire By Fire”, one of two tracks originally from 2008’s Tear Chicago Down. The guests here are Anthony Geraci whose piano starts things off and Mike Welch whose guitar locks into Josh’s as Andrew sings of taking a ‘hair of the dog’ to offset his hangover, the whole being a great piece of classic blues. Anthony and Mike also grace a re-make of one of the Kilborn’s best songs “Christmas In County”, also from Tear Chicago Down, a slow blues about spending the holiday season in prison, Andrew showing real emotion in his vocals and Mike playing some great Otis Rush licks. Nonagenarian Henry Gray sounds nothing like his age as he plays some great piano on the Kilborns’ frantic shuffle “Home To My Baby”, accompanied by Bob Corritore’s superb harp work and then sings his own “Cold Chills” with the same ensemble. Virginia’s Jackie Scott sings two of her own songs: on “Easy To Love You” Jackie sounds very much at home with her partner and the Kilborns are augmented by their former harp player Joe Asselin; “Been Trying To Figure Out” is lower key and is one of the standout tracks here as Andrew and Josh trade licks under Jackie’s soulful vocals.

Harmonica player Ronnie Shellist plays on three tracks: “Going Hard” featured on the Kilborns’ last album 4 but, in this reviewer’s opinion, suffered from a lack of focus in a lengthy version. Here the song clocks in at just under five minutes and is a far better take with Aaron’s drums starting things off before Andrew shows his angst in a powerful vocal performance. Ronnie plays up a storm on “Terre Haute”, another strong cut, a driving blues with a great hook, all about meeting a girl from Indiana who “left me a note saying call me when you get to Terre Haute”.

Corey Dennison and Gerry Hundt feature on two tracks: Andrew can always carry a soul tune and on “Misti” Corey shares vocals with Gerry on guitar and Joel Baer taking over the drum stool as Aaron plays some percussion. It’s an outstanding track with great vocals from both Andrew and Corey, Josh and Gerry combining well on guitar. However, the second contribution with Corey and Gerry works less well: “Night Creeper” has Aaron and Joel swapping percussion roles and Andrew and Corey delivering spoken lyrics, Corey defined in the sleeve notes as ‘storyteller’, Andrew as ‘speaking’ is a tale of odd shenanigans on tour.

“Sure Is Hot” adds a rap from Cerbo.  This album is high quality and very much worth hearing. Highly recommended.

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