King Bees – Featuring the Greatest Blues Stars
11 songs, 54 minutes
The King Bees are Penny “Queen Bee” Zamagni and Rob “Hound Dog” Baskerville. In 1985 this North Carolina couple felt the draw that so many white novice Blues lovers have felt before them, to learn about the Blues direct from the source. Unlike the ethnomusicologist wanderings of the Lomaxes, the Bees wanted to play! King Bees Featuring the Greatest Blues Star is a document of their adventures, friendships and jamming. A compilation of live tracks from 1990 to 2010 the 11 cuts present most of the classic electric Blues styles with many of the lesser known masters.
Harp superstar Carey Bell and gravel voiced local legend Nappy Brown anchor the list of featured Blues greats. Harpists Jerry Mc Cain, Chicago Bob Nelson and Neal Pattman all lay it down while guitarists Chick Willis and Beverly “Guitar” Watkins offer clinics in emotive Blues string bending. Mostly in back up playing difference and occasionally stepping into the spotlight Queen Bee Zamagni on bass and vocals and Hound Dog Baskerville on guitar are stellar in keeping things swinging hard.
This record is traditional, 12- bar Blues forms played with conviction, zest and joy. Nappy Brown’s rendition of the Howlin’ Wolf classic “Natchez Burning” leaves it all on the floor and almost matches the Wolf’s manic power. Carey Bell is inventive and dynamic with his harp work especially on the Queen Bee penned and sung funk hop “Alcohol and Blues.” Jerry Mc Cain is also strong and tart on harp on Zamagni’s other self penned showcase “Run Your Reputation Down.” Zamagni sings with gusto in an old timey Sippie Wallace style.
Beverly “Guitar” Watkins is the revelation of this record. On her medium-slow tempo burner “Beverly’s Guitar Blues,” Watkins exhibits ferocious technique. Singing with a husky voice that feels like a cross between Koko Taylor and Big Mama Thornton, Watkins is an engaged entertainer scatting and admonishing the audience she draws them in and seamlessly entwines her guitar riffs with her singing a la Albert Collins.
The music of King Bees Featuring the Greatest Blues Stars is fun and consistently high quality. An important document of some inspired musicians and performances, this is a traditional romp through the foundations of electric Blues. We are lucky to have tour guides like the King Bees sharing their adventures and honoring these Blues Greats.