Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King – Fat Man’s Shine Parlor
Blind Pig Records – 2015
12 tracks; 48 minutes
Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King return to Blind Pig after a gap of nine years in which time they have released four albums, two on Alligator, two on Delta Groove. Named after a store in a disreputable part of Dallas, the new album finds Kubek and King doing what they do best, rocking out in Texas roadhouse style on a series of tough blues, boogies and rockers. All the material here is original with Steve Hecht aiding on one song. The band is Joe and Bnois on guitars, Sheila Klinefelter on bass, Eric Smith on drums and Kim LaFleur who adds yet more guitar to three tracks. Bnois, as usual, handles all the vocals in his distinctive style. Joe produced the album which was recorded and mixed right at home in Dallas, Texas.
The album opens with a trademark boogie, Bnois singing of how he “Got my heart broken” by a girl. However, we soon learn that this is far from an unusual event: “I wish I could say this time was my last but I can’t be sure, judging by my past. I get so turned on it feels just like magic, but if I get caught the ending could be tragic.” The twin guitars intermesh excitingly to give us a great start to the album. Big fat chords open “Cornbread” which extols the virtues of that great southern accompaniment, Bnois assuring anyone unfamiliar with the delicacy that they are missing out. Kim’s additional guitar provides a sound that is almost like keyboards to this cut. “Diamond Eyes” drops the pace on a mid-paced ballad which Bnois sings really well and the two guitars play off each other superbly. “Crash And Burn” is extremely catchy as the guitars again interact over Sheila’s rumbling bass, Bnois taking a nimble plucked solo; “River Of Whiskey” finds Joe on slide adding a touch of country to the tune.
Some great guitar from Joe introduces the bluesy “Don’t Want To Be Alone” which has an attractive lilt to the tune and an outstanding solo with lots of sustain. Steve Hecht is credited alongside Joe and Bnois on “Brown Bomba Mojo” which has a long instrumental intro before Bnois enters on vocals – lots of fun guitar to enjoy on this one, from catchy rhythm work to leads from the two guitarists that range from delicate picking to amped up rock. “How Much” finds Bnois objecting to the costs of everyday living for the travelling musician, from cab fares to excess baggage charges for transporting guitars. Musically this is a solid shuffle with drummer Eric right in the pocket, another good track. Some echoey guitar introduces another tale of lust and infidelity as Bnois confesses that he cannot be satisfied by “One Girl By My Side” – “the magic disappears however hard I try”. “Lone Star Lap Dance” is aptly named as the band shuffles along in support of some light picking that sounds a little like a lap steel guitar, followed by some fine, stinging guitar in the main solo to provide another highlight. Bnois returns to that familiar theme of infidelity in the classic slow blues “Done Got Caught Blues”. Bnois sings of getting caught “with my pants down” as Joe emotes on guitar between the verses and Bnois finds some jazzy chords to support him. That style of guitar duetting is typical of Joe and Bnois and this is one of the best examples. Bnois’ vocals are slightly distorted and distant on “Headed For Ruin” though the guitars are present and correct, a touch of twang reminding us where the album was recorded.
As one might expect, Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King deliver another solid album with much to enjoy. Long-term fans will lap this one up and the album has enough solid tunes and playing to attract some new fans to the band.