Thursday, August 28, 2008

B.B. King - One Kind Favor (Geffen, 2008)

The great bluesman B.B. King (nonpareil guitarist and singer) has focused for much of his late career work on collaborations with pop stars and other musicians, but this project is a little different. King goes back to some of the music of his youth and takes solace in the deep blues. King's protean voice has lost some of it's energy, sounding vulnerable and tired at times, but that is hardly a criticism of a man in his mid-80's who has seen more hard traveling than 100 regular men combined. But it is somewhat unnerving to see King confront the inevitable with a powerfully weary version of "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" that leads off the album. "Backwater Blues" is particularly poignant in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and with another storm getting ready to move into the Gulf. "I Get So Weary" is easy to believe as well, here B.B. really sounds aged and tired. But there is still strength in the old lion yet, with a crackling version of the old blues standard "How Many More Years" and a deeply swinging version of "Sitting On Top of the World." While King's voice may have lost a step, his guitar work is still as impressive as ever. Each perfectly shaped note emerging with crystalline clarity. The excellent backing band is with him every step of the way, especially Dr. John, whose beatifically understated and subtle piano work is a highlight throughout the disc. So B.B. King has come full circle with this album, looking back on a lifetime of triumph and pain that is the very soul of the blues.

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