Simon Kinny-Lewis Band- King Biscuit
10 songs, 41 minutes
Robben Ford, the groundbreaking Jazz Fusion Blues Roots guitarist, has his own hybrid genre of Blues. Founder of the Fusion band the Yellowjackets, Ford plays his Blues with complexity and heart, with a special ear toward high end electric guitar sounds. Using elaborate substitution chords and finger cramping high wire technique, Ford has created a style of Real Deal Blues that is as much indebted to John McLaughlin as it is Buddy Guy. Australia’s leading firebrand of the Ford school is Simon Kinny-Lewis so it is fitting that his excellent new album King Biscuit is produced by none other than…Robben Ford.
SKL, as he is often referred to, is following up a pair of live in the studio records in which he and his band indulge in spontaneous energy. King Biscuit is every bit as exuberant but benefits from clean and crisp production. There is nothing experimental or ground breaking in the production, it just perfectly presents the music. The experimentation and exploration comes from the performances and arrangements. SKL offers here, just like on his last 2 outings, pretty standard cover selections – “Little Red Rooster,” “Crawling Kingsnake,” “Goin’ Down Slow,” etc. But, as is Kinny-Lewis’ conceit, he ramps these covers up into a Robben Ford frenzy of Jazz Rock chaos that leaves these almost hackney tunes fresh and reborn.
Kinny-Lewis is a virtuoso guitarist. Blistering speakers with chromatic runs, modal flights of fancy and arpeggiated passing chords SKL has a deep trick bag. The revelation of King Biscuit is Kinny-Lewis the singer and slide guitarist. This record is deep with high end guest guitarists. Including producer Ford who takes lead on one track and offers rhythm on 2, Josh Smith the Roots music wunderkind, Kirk Fletcher one of the few guitarists who could truly replace Jimmie Vaughan in the Thunderbirds, and Down Under countryman Ray Beadle all take over lead guitar responsibilities from Kinny-Lewis. As a result SKL lays in hard to his slide playing with the same kind of complex sophisticated abandon that he frets. The easing of lead guitar duties also allows the listener to appreciate SKLs consistent and solid singing. Using a linear horizontal phrasing similar to Mark Knopfler but with an underlying grit and gravel, SKL testifies these songs with conviction.
A core rhythm section of longtime drummer Tony Boyd, bassist Rob Ewan and keyboardist Nate Ginsberg pin down the music with passion and thump. Harp ace Andy Just studs a number of tracks with rasping harmonica and pianist Shannon Stitt offers 2nd keyboard depth to 2 tracks. Special guests Christian Howes offers keening violin transcending “Parchment Farm” and Lacky Doley plays a wild whammy clavinet (Google it, it’s worth it) on “You Can’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover.”
In spite of all the collaboration, King Biscuit is completely Simon Kinny-Lewis. SKL’s talent radiates out of these tracks. So often on quest besieged records the tracks without any extra personnel sound thin or out of place. Not the case here. Kinny-Lewis and his band are the main event and the guests serve to highlight how effective the base crew is. King Biscuit is a great SKL record. It is also a great Blues Rock Fusion record and stands tall next to Robben Ford’s towering monument of work. A great accomplishment for both Robben Ford and Simon Kinny-Lewis.