Born in one of the blues' most essential cities, this Chicago native learned from some of the Windy City's best by playing piano and keyboards on tours by Mighty Joe Young and Lonnie Brooks. In the 1980s, Ken Saydak played an essential part in Texas blues guitar legend Johnny Winter's renaissance as pianist on several tours and albums, including Winter's justly famous, Grammy-nominated Guitar Slinger.
This solo album, his third, would certainly be catalogued under "blues. But listened to closely, it reaches back through labels and categories to clutch the still-pumping heart of the simple and glorious music that became rock 'n' rollthe seminal, simmering soul stew bursting with different but related flavors: the twangs of country music, the tangs of New Orleans R&B, the heart pangs of gospel, and the ka-bang! of the blues.
For rock and roll energy, look no further than the cannonball blast opening and title track. Then explore the rhythm underneath "Hard Work, which flows from the same pool as Fats Domino's classic New Orleans rocker "Blueberry Hill, and the slow-rolling "I'll Pray for You, which sounds like gospel, blues, and country, then tosses barrelhouse piano boogie onto its collection plate!
Saydak proves an earnest and spirited blues songwriter (composing eleven of thirteen cuts) and musician with a rich and robust voice that sounds ready-made to sing the blues. In fact, his strong voice sometimes overpowers less substantial material ("Two of Everything, "Road and the Weather ). But given more solid songs, Saydak's voice rings more true. It nurtures "Half-Assed Love into a slow-rolling blues piano tidal wave, then spanks "Hanging by a Thread and "Rearrange, both of which feature guitar and vocal patterns that sound like Clapton deeply steeped in the blues.
My Soul; Half-Assed Love; All I Really Need; Darling I'll Pray For You; Learned My Lesson;
Hanging by a Thread; Hard Work; Two of Everything; Bonedance; Love in the Dumpster;
Rearrange; Preaching to the Choir; Road and the Weather.
Ken Saydak: lead vocals, piano, organ; Fred James: guitars; Phil "Fingers" Farrell: bass;
David Zehring: drums; Mary-Ann Brandon: background vocals; Dennis Taylor: saxophone.