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Smokin: Bite Me!

Ed Kopp By

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Smokin' Joe Kubek (lead guitar) and Bnois King (vocals, second guitar) have been blues collaborators for over a decade now. Kubek is a versatile Dallas-based axeman who favors rock-style guitar effects. Louisiana native King is one of the most tasteful singers ever to front a crunching electric blues band. Unlikely as the Kubek-King partnership seemed in the beginning, it has worked very well over the course of nine albums and countless live dates.

Bite Me! is a typical release from this hard-rocking duo. Kubek’s guitar work is as hot and busy as ever and King’s vocals are typically soulful. Moreover, the supporting musicians are solid, and the production by Jim Gaines is far less garish than on the band’s last release Take Your Best Shot. If there's a problem here, it's that most of the songs lack imagination in the lyrics department. (All 11 cuts are originals.)

For instance, does the world really need two more blues tunes about picking up loose women ("I Gotta Have It," "Ready to Learn)? This material is fine if you’re a bar fly, but Kubek and King have shown they’re capable of far more. A case in point is "That’s No Way," a powerful tune that argues against the bar-hopping lifestyle the band celebrates in some other songs.

Still, Bite Me! has enough powerful moments to recommend it. "Lay It on Me Leone" is a Memphis-style groover with a pumping three-piece horn section led by great Texas saxman Mark "Kaz" Kazanoff. The instrumental title track has a swampy Louisiana feel, and "Player Got Played" is a smoldering slow blues number.

Kubek and King are worth hearing no matter what they’re playing. I just wish they’d spend more time crafting their lyrics. This is a good band capable of greatness.

| Record Label: Bullseye Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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