Monday, April 12, 2004

Kenny Neal and Billy Branch – Double Take (Alligator, 2004)

This nice raw acoustic blues do strips away a lot of the sheen that surrounds a lot of the “blues” today and gets back to the real thing. Branch has a wonderful full bodied swooping sound on the harmonica, and Neal’s picking matches him step for step. This is an unusual disc for Alligator, not staying in line with their “genuine houserocking music” credo, but this diversion is most welcome. It’s a wonderful slice of blues, here’s hoping it’s a format Alligator decides to revisit often.

The music itself is a mix of standards with a few originals thrown in. The standards are really chestnuts, Little Walter’s “My Babe” and Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller)’s “Don’t Start Me to Talkin” really put a lot of pressure on Branch to deliver on the harp and he brings the goods each time. Kenny Neal’s originals “Early One Morning” and “Going to the Country” betray his Louisiana swamp blues roots.

This is a nice laid back, back porch session, but there’s enough energy present so nobody starts to nod off. Taking a chance by doing a blasting cover of Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy” proves that these two are not going to take the easy listening Keb Mo approach to acoustic blues. Highly recommended.

Rating: 8.5

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