Review: The Knickerbocker All-Stars – Open Mic at The Knick

Posted on: Tuesday, Dec 9, 2014


The Knickerbocker All-Stars – Open Mic At The Knick

(JP Cadillac: JPS1000)

Westerly, Rhode Island may not have the romantic connotations (blues-wise) of down-home Mississippi, but in one sense it is the cradle of a large part of the modern blues scene: it was the home of the massively influential Roomful Of Blues, who had a Sunday night residency at The Knickerbocker in the early 70s and it has been described as “the pivotal venue” for the band’s development.

The Knickerbocker All-Stars comprises musicians who feature(d) at the club and who have been playing for decades behind some of the blues biggest legends and with their own bands as well – think pianists Al Copley and Dave Maxwell, saxman Rich Lataille, and drummer Fran Christina, to mention just the best known names here. Mind you, lesser-known guitarist Ricky King Russell impresses throughout with his always spot-on and very tasteful blues licks and solos.

The aim of this set is to capture the feel of some of the classic blues songs that were around back in those formative years – big brassy items like BB King’s ‘You Upset Me’, Freddie King’s driving ‘I’m Tore Down’ and impassioned slow numbers such as Guitar Slim’s ‘Along About Midnight’ – and so the group drafted in singers of the calibre of Malford Milligan, Johnny Nicholas, Sugar Ray Norcia, Brian Templeton, and Curtis Salgado, the latter often credited as the inspiration for The Blues Brothers and one of the few vocalists around these days who can convincingly cover Bobby Bland.

Many of these artists also have links with the Rhode Island blues scene, even Texan Willy Laws, who is a new name to me. Mentored by Phillip Walker, he turns in two truly excellent vocals. This formidable aggregation has created an album that may not break any new ground, but that does just what is required in exemplary fashion.


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