SHIRLEY KING – Blues For A King

Cleopatra 2020

SHIRLEY KING –
Blues For A King

B.B.’s baby marks her 70th anniversary with a personal twist on choice classics and a sprinkling of new tunes.

Despite a brace of albums issued in the ’90s and an occasional concert alongside her old man, so-called “the daughter of the blues” hasn’t really found her listener – until now that the stage veteran move quite a few atypical pieces under her genes-embedded genre’s umbrella. As a result, this record should firmly place Shirley on the music map. It’s impossible to guess the lady’s a septuagenarian because there’s nuclear energy in her delivery, and the vim in her voice can make younger singers green with envy, especially when Ms. King tackles evergreen numbers and immediately owns them – aided and abetted by an array of kindred spirits.

It’s tempting to perceive a loose concept between such standards as the stylish “Feeling Good” where Robben Ford lays down lyrical lines and Dave Mason‘s scintillating “Feelin’ Alright” where Duke Robillard peels off fluid chords, or between the soulful opener “All Of My Lovin'” and the swagger-driven “Give It All Up” – two groovy tunes penned by the album’s producers J├╝rgen Engler and Brian Perera. But in fact, the only link between all these tracks are King’s pipes, as she takes “Can’t Find My Way Home” beyond the pale and invites Martin Barre to paint hazy romance over the no-more-languid ballad, before sharing vocal duties on the dancefloor-bound “Johnny Porter” with Arthur Adams.

Of course, there’s “Hoodoo Man Blues” which Junior Wells and Joe Louis Walker help the sister bring home, while “I Did You Wrong” – another original cut, one which features Elvin Bishop’s measured twang – and traditional “Gallows Pole” – which has Harvey Mandel’s guitar wail upping the drama – tap into the heart of blues, too. Still, be it Chicago or Delta hues that color the picture, Shirley is inhabiting everything with grace, something she’s ready to throw out the window once Pat Travers’s revving licks kickstart “That’s All Right Mama” to let the veteran roar with much gusto. So if the finale of “At Last” can hardly fit the record’s theme, and even Steve Cropper isn’t able to nail the song’s orchestral sway, the first play of this album will warrant repeated spins and lasting delight.

****

September 6, 2020

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