Smokin’ Joe Kubek featuring Bnois King
Bite Me
Bullseye Blues BEYE 9617

No surprise that the seventh album teaming guitarist Kubek and guitarist/singer King is a polished affair — the pair has worked together for about ten years and still do more than 200 dates a year on the road. But despite the miles (or maybe because of them), these guys have not yielded an inch of their linebacker Texas blues ethic — make it count, make it sting, leave a mark.

Still, there’s a funky irreverence at work in this outfit. The more or less straightforward mid-tempo rock number that kicks off the CD, "If You Know What I’m Sayin’," features Kubek goofing around on his guitar talk-box, making those weird sort-of vocal sounds you thought went out with Peter Frampton and Joe Walsh 25 years ago, matched with some treated vocal snarling by King.

King gets a proper vocal showcase on the instructive "That’s No Way," its somewhat preachy tone threatening to set an unreasonably virtuous tone for the rest of the CD. But the bouncy "It’s About That Thang" — where he advises "you gotta stick it, stick it, stick it till they beg for mo’" — comes as welcome relief, with Kubek throwing in a very greasy but nicely framed trademark slide solo here.

For a guy at the top of the bill, Kubek spends a fair amount of time laying back, either backing up King or simply drawing clean lines on the bottom of the tunes. But when he wants to make an impression, the gloves come off. Shades of Bo Diddley mark the bruising roadhouse scorcher "Rollercoaster Love," balanced between Kubek’s thick-stringed guitar soloing and Mark Kazanoff’s wailing harmonica. The tune’s probably the CD’s center of gravity — after a string of nicely arranged but relatively polite numbers, "Rollercoaster Love" comes barreling in, knocking over the furniture and stinking the whole joint up, and you really, really wish you’d catch them doing this tune live.

Forget about the "post-modern Texas blues" label that some eager liner notes guy pasted on this CD — this is plain and simple one of the best working bands out there, and while it’s not all blues, it IS all business. Extra grits, hold the jive.

Dave Kirby

©2000 Blues Access, Boulder, Colorado, USA