Kenny Parker
Raise the Dead
JSP 275
The liner notes to this Detroit guitarslinger's thoroughly unoriginal CD distances Parker from Stevie Ray Vaughan -- and we'll give him that. He doesn't sound anything like Vaughan save a slight trying-too-hard vocal inflection, and he clearly learned his licks from the originals, Albert Collins, B.B. King and a Detroit-area mentor figure named Mr. Bo.

Parker, though, just doesn't have many good ideas of his own. He can play just fine, plugging his solos at the right moments behind the choruses and bending a note exactly when he's supposed to. And his innovations are hardly worth boasting about: Guest singer Sommerville Slim does "Cryin' for Help" like he's shouting inside a tunnel, and Parker closes the album with a couple of well-played but swingless instrumentals.

Also, there's a minor happy theme, which is a twist -- the subject of Parker's opening "Too Hot for Me" wants "nothin' but lovin'/about 24 hours a day." Dallas singer Darrell Nulisch, billed as the album's "special guest," exults about a terrific woman who gives him "everything I need" on "She's the One for Me." Fortunately, the upbeat mood doesn't last, and Parker descends quickly back to "Shake Hands With the Devil."

Parker has impressive producer's credentials -- he manned the boards for his JSP labelmates the Butler Twins -- and there's nothing outwardly wrong with Raise the Dead. It just sounds like everything's in the right place; the harp comes in right on time, the drums play extra fills in between the verses and all's quiet in Twelve-bar Land. We suggest leaving town and finding a sloppier kind of joint.

-- Steve Knopper

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