King Ernest
Blues Got Soul
Fat Possum 80334-2

One canít help but feel sad listening to King Ernestís sophomore effort Blues Got Soul: Knowing that the man died in a car accident just a few days after recording the album lends a maudlin effect to the overall experience.

Regardless, itís a masterful piece of work, loaded with emotion and originality. Considering the genreís penchant for guitar acrobatics, the latter is often difficult to find in contemporary blues releases.

King Ernest, however, was the star of his own show. Using subtle arrangements and a silky voice, he made this record deeply romantic and sweet on the ears. With a voice that at times reminds of Johnnie Taylorís, Ernestís approach was certainly heartfelt. Choice cuts include the smooth "Must Have Lost My Mind" and the sultry "íTil the Day I Die" (although Tom Waits fans will no doubt take note of his version of "House Where Nobody Lives"). Each arrangement is handled rather delicately by the backing band.

Meanwhile, producer Andy Kaulkin keeps the mix softened, pushing Ernest to the forefront. The effect is tight as hell, and Ernest comes across as a sensitive lover man with an aura of class. On "Wood Rat," he finally starts to cut loose with primal lusty howls as a juke-joint rhythm pulsates in the background.

As a whole, Blues Got Soul is just as the title indicates. Itís fortunate that his swan song is not enveloped by over-zealous instrumentals or overly-rich production. Everything is kept simple so that the King can do his thing. Best of all, itís a record thatís most effective for slow dancing or love-making, and Ernest wouldnít have had it any other way.

ó Mike Emery

©2001 Blues Access, Boulder, Colorado, USA