Review: Paul Lamb and the Kingsnakes – Mind Games

Posted on: Sunday, Nov 14, 2010

“Mind Games”
(Secret Records – SECCD026)

A new album from British harmonica maestro Paul Lamb and his band is always eagerly awaited in these quarters – and as he is a torch bearer for all that is good in the blues it’s a pleasure that he and The King Snakes have come up with a winner in “Mind Games” . . . a 12-track selection of choice covers and band originals, of course dominated by his brilliant harmonica playing but with tons of space for the band to show their skills.

Apart from Paul Lamb on harmonica and occasional vocal, The King Snakes now feature Chad Strentz (vocals and guitar), Rod Demick (bass), relatively new drummer Mike Thorne, and, keeping it in the family, the sparkling guitar of Ryan Lamb, Paul’s son, whose playing is a revelation throughout.

The opening title cut, “Mind Games” is a jaunty, breezy shuffle that swings delightfully with some outstanding chromatic work from Lamb, and customary sweet vocal from Chad Strentz; the following “Come To The Conclusion” is an altogether different proposition . . .  a hybrid of a grinding John Lee Hooker guitar riff and shades of the mighty Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips” . . . you get the picture? The pace is taken down on the soulful “Let Me In”, penned by Messrs. Lamb senior and junior, but with more appealing guitar work and tasteful harmonica.

The band take a trip down to ‘N’Awlins’ on the Lee Dorsey-penned “Ya Ya Blues”, with shared vocals from Paul Lamb and Chad Strentz . . . a song that has featured in the live set for a good while now. The very modern funk groove of a tale of the hard times we live in is definitely an album highlight – “Depressing Recession” – with Ryan Lamb tearing it up and his dad’s playing having the same feel that Sugar Blue captured on The Rolling Stones “Miss You”, which parts of this song remind me of a lot!

“The Pillow”, which was first recorded on the band’s “Blue Album” is revisited here, and the original’s rockabilly feel is transferred more to a lovely country blues with Paul Lamb’s playing as sweet as ever. Chad Strentz’s “Love Another Day” is a sorrowful, intense slow blues, with passionate vocal from the writer and more chromatic magic from Paul Lamb. The simple shuffle of “Change My Way Of Livin” features the driving piano of the late Pete ‘Sonny’ Nash, to whom the album is dedicated – he also contributed Hammond organ to the title cut, and it also captures Paul Lamb laying on the magnificent Sonny Terry style harmonica that first inspired him.

The whole band swing like crazy on the storming “No Matter What You Do”,and take the pace down on the sparse “If You Lose Your Money” – before the album closes with a brace of fine covers – Brownie McGhee’s “The Blues Had A Baby”, often covered but a great version here with name-drops for some blues heroes; and a live take on Leadbelly’s “Midnight Special”, virtually delivered a capella apart from Paul Lamb’s harmonica, and a great end to a fine release.


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