Yates McKendree – Buchanan Lane
13 songs – 45 minutes
Once in a very rare while, a debut album simply knocks you off your feet from the opening bars. That’s the case with this stunner from Yates McKendree, a multi-instrumentalist with a silky-smooth voice who’s an old soul in a very young body at age 21 – and already a Grammy winner to boot!
The son of keyboard player/guitarist Kevin McKendree, Delbert McClinton’s former bandleader and one of the foremost musicians, producers and studio owners in the world, Yates has been performing since age ten at the top venues in Music City – The Bluebird Café, Ryman Auditorium and 3rd & Lindsley included, holding his own on six-string, keys and at the mic while sharing the stage with giants.
Although this is his first solo effort, he’s already recorded with Teresa James & the Rhythm Tramps, John Hiatt, Andy Poxon, Black Stone Cherry, Seth James and Delbert at his dad’s Rock House Studio, laying down guitar licks and serving as an engineer on McClinton’s trophy-winning 2019 CD, Tall Dark & Handsome. His talents in the control room have also contributed to discs by Tinsley Ellis, Shane Dwight and others.
Recorded at Rock House in suburban Franklin, Yates is backed by a who’s who of music royalty here but there’s no question that he’s the star. Dad Kevin’s at the controls and contributes piano and organ with Big Joe Maher and Kenneth Blevins on drums, Steve Mackey on upright bass, Greg Garner on electric bass and a horn section composed of Jim Hoke (sax), Andrew Carney (trumpet) and Roland Barber (trombone). Andrew White sits in on rhythm guitar on one cut, The McCrary Sisters provide backing vocals on another and Yates also adds bass and percussion to the mix.
He swings from the hip with the original, “Out Crowd” to open. A classy, instrumental rhumba based on the Ramsey Lewis classic, “In Crowd,” the jazz piano master – who died earlier this year — would have beamed if he’d been able to hear Yates’ light, two-fisted attack on the 88s, which will have you yearning for more. The feel continues as McKendree switches to guitar for most of the remaining set, beginning with a cover of B.B. King’s “Ruby Lee.” His single-note attack stings atop driving Latin rhythm, and his warm pipes are ever so slightly behind the beat to make the song swing even more.
Yates teamed with Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Gary Nicholson to pen the next two tunes. An unhurried, Chicago-style blues, “Wise” proclaims that the singer may be youthful but he’s hip to his lady’s lies and deceitful ways while “No Justice,” a slow blues with similar appeal, finds him looking back, flat broke and busted but constantly thinking of the love he lost and yearning for what once had been. His mid-tune solo blazes with emotion.
The eight tunes than follow are all culled from yesteryear, and it’s obvious that McKendree has a great ear for dusty oldies and the ability to instill new life in them while still maintaining their essence. First up is “Brand New Neighborhood,” a swinging rocker first laid down by Fletcher Smith and his orchestra in 1953. It features call-and-response between Yates on six-string and Kevin on keys before giving way for fresh takes on Earl King’s “Always a First Time” and T-Bone Walker’s “Papa Ain’t Salty” before breathing new life into “No Reason,” an obscure ‘50s hit penned by Carmen Davis.
Can Yates cover Dr. John? You betcha! His delivery of “Qualified” – aided by his pop on piano – updates the Night Tripper for the 21st century. And he does the same for tunes from the Gulf Coast with a take on Guitar Slim’s “It Hurts to Love Someone” before laying down his axe and taking over on 88s for a refresher of Jimmy Binkley’s 1955 café society classic, “Wine, Wine, Wine,” too. Tampa Red’s “Please Mr. Doctor” follows before the original instrumental, “Voodoo,” brings the disc to a pleasant close.
Named after the street where he grew up, this album is Buchanan Lane’s gift to the world. If Yates McKendree doesn’t win awards for this one, I demand a recount!