Jamaica-born, Alabama-bred Eddie Kirkland remains a little-known bluesman despite a lustrous musical career that spans more than four decades. A mainstay of the fertile 1950s Detroit blues scene ó where he was a sideman for John Lee Hooker ó Kirkland settled in Macon, Georgia, in 1962, toured with Otis Redding, recorded a minor hit for Stax/Volt ("The Hawg") and issued sporadic but very fine recordings over the next 30 years.
Even at the age of 70, the turban-headed Kirkland is a remarkably forceful, throaty singer and physically manic performer in the Howliní Wolf tradition. His music is a common Southern blend of down-home soul and blues which Kirkland spices up with funky ninth guitar chords he claims he started fooling with way back in his Detroit days ó "People thought I was crazy."
Listeners who have boarded the multimedia techno train (and who hasnít?) will be treated to the goodies found on this "enhanced CD": video clips that include segments of a PBS documentary and guest artist studio interviews; a rich biography with rare photos; a Living Blues interview and other press clippings, as well as a complete discography. Pretty cool stuff.
But letís face it: Weíre here for the music. The good news is that thereís plenty of good stuff there, too. Kirkland and his regular band are joined by the now-obligatory "guest artists" who include G.E. Smith, Tab Benoit, Sonny Landreth and Kenny Neal. Fortunately, these drop-in guests blend in seamlessly with the Kirkland style and sound on 10 original tunes and a raucous cover of the Motown oldie, "Money, Thatís What I Want."
Kirkland is an adequate songwriter who occasionally rises to distinction when the material ferments from deep within, as it does on the emotional "Gates of Heaven," a hymnal ode to his fallen mother, or the inspirational "Pick Up the Pieces." Itís his powerful, gospel-honed voice, distinct arrangements and influential guitar style, however, that set him apart. That and the "real" feel of countless one-night stands and a lifetime of experience and endurance. You donít learn that from a how-to guitar video. The music is loud and energetic enough for even the most demanding blues rocker and down-home and funky enough to please the less excitable fan.
ó Jack Oudiz