Monday, January 9, 2012

Four reviewed by Mark Thompson

Kilborn Alley
Blue Bella Records
11 tracks/49:04

Now operating as a quartet, Kilborn Alley serves up another batch of tunes that hit home with a cutting edge that honors the blues tradition while mixing in some of the soulful seasoning that has always been a distinguishing element of the band's music. Andy Duncanson handles the lead vocals and guitar with Josh Stimmel also on guitar, Chris Breem on bass and Ed O'Hara on drums and backing vocal. The group gets help from several special guests including Gerry Hundt on harmonica, Vince Salerno on sax and Travis Reed, a member of the Nick Moss Band, on organ and piano.

Duncanson has a marvelous voice that is rough around the edges, yet also capable of expressing breathtakingly deep emotions that hit hard at your soul. His yearning, pleading vocal on “You Were My Woman” drives home the pain of a love lost. The band channels the sound from the glory days of labels like Stax and Hi Records on “Good Advice”, with Reed on organ providing the perfect backdrop for Duncanson as the singer pours out his feelings in soul-wrenching fashion. Duncanson's finest moment comes on the opening two lines on “Going Hard”. The lyrics “Whiskey bottle, on my bedside table..” don't seem like much until you hear his spine-chilling delivery that immediately transport you to a time when each of us has stood alone, late at night, battling our demons. Later in the track, Stimmel matches the singer's intensity with a lengthy guitar solo that showcases his distinctive style.

Breem and O'Hara lay down a driving shuffle on the opening number, “'Rents House Boogie”, with Stimmel's taut rhythm guitar part serving as a counterpoint to Hundt's harp. “Wandering” is a joyous romp with Hundt blowing in the upper register of his harp ala Jimmy Reed. The tough groove on “Fast Heart Beat” returns the band to the traditional Chicago sound while the instrumental “Argyles and a Do-Rag” celebrates Stimmel's sense of style with both guitar players trading the lead position. “Sitting on the Bank” employs the classic riff from “'Rolling & Tumbling” with Hundt once again making a key contribution. Another highlight is Duncanson's moving rendition of “Couple of Days (Change My Ways)”, a song that illustrates again how well the group can handle gentler, soulful material.

Kilborn Alley continues to impress with their outstanding musical interplay and knock-out vocals. If you are looking for some blues music worth spending your hard-earned dollars on, I strongly suggest that you start your search with this release. It comes highly recommended !!

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

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