Review: Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King Unplugged – Close To The Bone

Posted on: Monday, Oct 15, 2012


Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King Unplugged – Close To The Bone

(Delta Groove Music: DGPCD155)

Those used to the rocking and soulful full-on ‘roadhouse’ electric blues of Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King may be taken aback on hearing “Close To The Bone” for the first time or two . . . it’s a virtually all acoustic album – but as with all Delta Groove releases, it sounds wonderful and is full of mostly original compositions with some of the cream of the labels musicians helping out on the 14 tracks.

Joe Kubek hails from Irving, Texas . . . playing with Freddie King as a youngster, his blazing guitar work very much in the style of fellow Texans, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Johnny Winter – his rousing guitar work earning him the ‘Smokin’ Joe’ nickname. His musical partner, Bnois King, comes from Monroe, Louisiana, with his influences from an earlier era, the likes of T-Bone Walker and BB King . . . his guitar style contrasting with Kubek’s and he the possessor of a mighty fine soulful voice.

The almost-flamenco guitar work on “Poor Boy Blues” kicks things off and leads into a toe-tapping groove with King’s lovely voice and some intricate acoustic guitar work from the duo; “Can’t Let Go” follows in similar territory, but with the massed guitar ranks of guests Kirk Fletcher, Shawn Pittman and Paul Size on board, along with Jimi Bott on drums. The really pretty “My Best Friend” is a lovely aching ballad with a beautiful guitar motif and heartfelt vocal.

The bouncy blues of “Keep Her Around” is a highlight . . . the great groove fairly drives the song along, with this tune featuring three guest harmonica players . . . Delta Groove CEO Randy Chortkoff, who also produced the album, as well as Bob Corritore and Big Pete, as well as Willie J Campbell making up a rhythm section alongside Bott. “Drowning In Red Ink” has a sweet Southern soul feel, with the great Fred Kaplan on piano . . . and Bnois King showing he is one of the finest singers around on the modern blues scene.

Elsewhere, “My Hats Off To You”, is a nice blues strut, with more intricate acoustic guitar; the slow blues burner “Ordinary Man” is another gem here as King tells the tale of a working man doing his best in tough times. The Delta blues of “Mama’s Bad Luck Child” takes the listener back in time, with some lovely harmonica from Lynwood Slim here. “Close To The Bone” ends with another nice ballad, great guitar and nice vocal . . . which are in place all the way through this most refreshing and enjoyable release.


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