Shirley King – Blues for a King
CD: 11 Songs, 36 Minutes
Styles: Classic Blues, Torch Singer Blues, Blues Covers
Being the daughter of blues royalty certainly has its advantages. For one, your father is one of the literal Kings of such music – B.B., in this case. You follow in his footsteps from an early age: learning, growing, and honing your art. By the time you’re more than grown, you’re ready to ascend his throne, a monarch in your own right. That’s exactly what Shirley King does in her terrific classic blues album, Blues for a King. From start to finish, she and her famous co-performing courtiers (listed below) open the bounty chest of the genre and display such gems as “Feelin’ Alright?” (Dave Mason), “That’s All Right Mama” (Arthur Crudup), “Can’t Find My Way Home” (Steve Winwood), and “Hoodoo Man Blues” (Amos Blakemore). Several original tracks by producer Jürgen Engler and Brian Perera also glimmer, the best of these being “I Did You Wrong” and “Give It All Up.” The biggest gold coin, however, is yet to be mentioned…
Accompanying Shirley are world-famous blues icons. In order, they are: Joe Louis Walker, Duke Robillard, Elvin Bishop, Pat Travers, Martin Barre, Arthur Adams, Robben Ford, Kirk Fletcher, Harvey Mandel, Junior Wells, and Steve Cropper. Jürgen Engler plays guitar, bass, and piano.
“I’m so thrilled that these great artists lent their amazing talents to my new album. I can’t thank them enough for believing in me. I’m so proud of this album and can’t wait for the world to hear it. I feel it’s my best work yet,” enthuses Memphis native Shirley. Joe Louis Walker, revered member of the Blues Hall of Fame, comments, “I’ve had the honor of performing on two B.B. King albums. Now I have the distinct honor and pleasure of playing on his daughter’s album, Shirley King, who is also my dear friend. Keep the thrill goin’ on, Shirley.”
Original number “All Of My Lovin’” lights up a room, and one’s heart, with timeless torch singing. One can definitely tell Etta James was one of Shirley’s prime musical influences, along with Mahalia Jackson. Joe Louis Walker adds smooth guitar that would make anyone swoon. “Feelin’ Alright?” features a boisterous bongo beat and Latin-style rhythm perfect for dancing. Elvin Bishop crowns the metaphorical stage on “I Did You Wrong,” proving that once again, you can’t go wrong with his trademark sound. Later on come the edgy “Johnny Porter” and “Feeling Good,” a sly jazz number in a minor key. Nina Simone may have been the diva who originally belted it out for the world to hear, but Shirley rejuvenates and revitalizes it.
Two songs after that shot of blues adrenaline, “Gallows Pole” sends shivers down one’s spine. It’s a haunting ballad about trying to grease the wheels of justice. No matter if you do so with silver, gold, and a different kind of treasure (the price “Sister” pays), sometimes all the hangman does is “laugh and pull so hard.” Harvey Mandel’s wah-wah guitar chokes, sputters, and grinds to a halt as our narrator gasps his last breath. It’s a jarring denouement to this tale of woe.
Blues for a King has it all: strength, versatility, and the staying power of a true Daughter of the Blues. Shirley may have come late to the scene (she first tried it on in 1990), but she’s more than made up for lost time. B.B. is surely smiling in heaven, proud of his queen.