Now regarded as the Queen of the Blues, Koko Taylor is a classic female blues shouter who favors the raw, electric energy of Chicago blues. On Royal Blue, Taylor’s feisty singing helps to inspire a star-studded supporting cast that includes B.B. King, Keb’ Mo’, Johnnie Johnson and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
No singer gives more or herself than Taylor, and no one plays the angry or sensual woman better than the 64-year-old blues mama. Taylor’s growly voice still sounds powerful on her first album in seven years.
Royal Blue is a rowdy collection dominated by woman-done-wrong songs and racy, libido-fueled numbers. All of the tunes rock out in funky Chicago fashion, with one exception: the Taylor original "The Man Next Door," an acoustic Delta-style number that features Keb’ Mo’ on National Steel, harmonica and vocals (with Taylor). Since this song is as soulful as anything Taylor has recorded, let’s hope she dabbles in more Delta blues on future releases.
It’s always a treat to hear former Chuck Berry pianist Johnnie Johnson rattle the black-and-whites, and my favorite cuts here are the three featuring the St. Louis legend. Particularly outstanding is "But on the Other Hand," a deep-blues emoter written by Charles and Percy Mayfield. Besides Johnson’s jaunty piano playing, the tune offers some terrific guitar work by Criss Johnston.
Taylor and guitar phenom Shepherd team up on Melissa Etheridge’s "Bring Me Some Water," a loud and fast rocker. The Queen meets the King (B.B. King) on the boisterous party number "Blues Hotel," a place where we all should make a reservation.
Admittedly, none of the new songs on Royal Blue will ever be regarded as blues classics. Nevertheless, Koko Taylor sings them with such unbridled energy that the superstar guests seem driven to match her intensity.