CD: 10 Songs; 38:03 Minutes
Styles: Acoustic and Harmonica Blues, Country Blues
What does “King Biscuit” mean? It’s a brand of flour, a syndicated “Flower Hour” radio program, another daily radio show followed by the word “Time” (the longest-running American radio broadcast in history, according to Wikipedia), and a blues festival in Helena, Arkansas. There was also a Canadian blues musician known as “King Biscuit Boy” (1944-2003), with the real name of Richard Alfred Newell. Into this confusing jumble of similar names comes the UK’s “King Biscuit Boys,” a duo featuring Jonathan Townsend on vocals and guitar, and Craig Stocker on chromatic and diatonic harmonicas. Even though the harp instrumentation is above-average and the acoustic fretwork average, the remarkable aspect of their second CD, All in a Day’s Work, is this: Townsend literally does not sing one note throughout the entire album. Calling his vocals “conversational” would also be a stretch; “recitational” is a much better descriptor.
According to their website, “Craig and Jonathan met up in the summer of 2011 and have been writing, finding and arranging songs that suit their style ever since…. The King Biscuit Boys play country blues from the modern world. They play a great mix of classic blues covers and originals using an array of instruments including slide guitar, harmonica, melodica and washboard.”
Their claim to pure blues is bona-fide. The ten songs offered (seven originals and three covers) contain no rock or other ingredients to compromise the flavor of the true genre. The following three songs, two originals and one traditional piece, are the best of their lot:
Track 08: “Live Life and Take the Consequences” – This jaunty number is the one song in which Townsend plays his “A+ game” on acoustic guitar. In a gravelly patter, he warns certain listeners who may be up to no good: “Cheat on your friends and neighbors when you think you won’t get caught. Take time and think what you are doing, or you will end up in nobody’s thoughts.” Craig Stocker’s spicy harmonica solo will make live crowds get up and dance.
Track 09: “If You Want Loyalty…Buy a Dog!” – The next tune is almost a complete 180-degree turn from the message of the last one: “I won’t come back when you call me. I won’t sit when you tell me to. I’m always looking around for somebody new. Well, you want loyalty…buy a dog!” This track’s best feature is its humor.
Track 10: “How Come My Dog Don’t Bark?” Townsend establishes a clear tempo on his acoustic guitar, which might cause fidgety blues fans to stomp their feet. However, how come his vocals rarely match it once the final song starts in earnest? Mr. Fletcher in the movie Whiplash would have fits. However, the lyrics are quite piercing: “Now I’m real busy strangulating, mutilating, and cremating my old lady….”
Country blues is All in a Day’s Work for the King Biscuit Boys!