Joe Kubek moved to Texas and played backup for bluesmen of both local and national renown (including Texas legend Freddie King) before he turned 20. He met Louisiana native Bnois King at a blues jam session in Dallas. The two quickly realized that their individual slashing blues styles would make one powerhouse combination guitar sound and have performed together for the two decades since. "I pull the blues out of him and he pulls the jazz out of me," Kubek once said.
Few musical styles have maintained a tradition of excellence like Texas guitar blues, full of such names as King, T-Bone Walker, Gatemouth Brown, Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top. In various ways, the originals and cover versions on this Alligator debut by these guitar Blood Brothers honor that red hot and blue tradition. The guitar fills in "Don't Lose My Number" broil under the hot Texas slide style of Johnny Winter, and the "Cold Folks Boogie" arrangement makes the rhythm section sound like a big-band horn chart, which brings out the feel and sound of T-Bone Walker. An instrumental tribute to Albert Collins, "Freezer Burn" illuminates the hotwires that supercharge the blues into rock 'n' roll, especially those stop-time passages that stomp beneath the twin guitars' surly electric noise. "Troubled Dreams" dunks Texas blues into southern-fried rock, while pianist John Street finger rolls fine Johnnie Johnson piano into "Midlife Crisis, Midnight Flight" to bring the Chuck Berry sound out from its rockabilly beat.
But the brothers' cover of Lightnin' Hopkins "Stop Drinking" is the slam-dunk master-jam of this set, wrenched open with the classic Texas blues rhythm, ridden hard and rough, and culminating in a torrent of notes and chords that shriek out through distortion the blissful agony of the blues. It's stark, raving and mad.
The blues seem to lend itself more than some other genres to musical autobiography and immediately after the ache and moan of "Stop Drinking, " King tells the tale of his personal moment of blues epiphanystanding on "Coleman Avenue, " listening to the piano outside a club he was too young to legally enter, warmly reminiscing in bustling and earnest blues.
Personnel: Smokin' Joe Kubek: guitar; Bnois King: guitar, vocals; Paul Jenkins: bass; Dave Konstantin: drums; John Street: keyboards.