Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King discovered a natural rapport the first time they jammed onstage. So they hit the road as a blues duo, one that has been making people dance and smile for two-and-a-half decades.
They’ve produced more than a dozen records, recently joining Delta Groove Music. The first for the label was the acoustic “Close to the Bone,” and on Sept. 17 “Road Dog’s Life,” an amplified 12-song celebration of the duo’s traditional sound.
The recording sessions were relaxed, fun and seemed to take hardly any time to complete, Kubek said.
While blues often can be identified by a geographic style, such as Delta, Chicago or Memphis, Texas is, well, all over the map. Consider the different sounds of Gatemouth Brown, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Freddie King, Johnny Winter, Albert Collins and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Texas native and Delta Groove label mate Sugaray Rayford calls it a gumbo.
If so, the recipe for Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King’s “Road Dog’s Life” calls for King’s sweet as honey voice dripped over Kubek’s smokin’ guitar chops. Sprinkle some harp and vocals from Kim Wilson with a dash of guitarist Kid Andersen.
Kubek and King had 10 tracks for the album, but added Beatles and Rolling Stones covers as a nod to the British Invasion, Kubek’s musical inspiration.
“I always ran into Stones freaks who didn’t like the Beatles or Beatles freaks who didn’t like the Stones,” Kubek said. “I probably have every blues record in the world, but I am still a huge Beatles freak. So I got a wild hair to do a song by each one of them on one album so I could capture those two types of people, because most of the people who are listening to blues these days come from the era of when that all started.”
The songs are the Stones’ “Play with Fire” and “Don’t Bother Me,” George Harrison’s first published tune, which is on “Meet The Beatles.”
“I was in first grade and happened to be sitting in front of the TV that night The Beatles debuted on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ ” Kubek told Tahoe Onstage. “I wasn’t even able to pay attention to school after that. I just wanted to play.”
Kubek, captivated by Harrison’s work on the Rickenbacker guitar, “backed into the blues” by reading liner notes on Jeff Beck and Cream albums. He learned that songwriters Chester Burnett and McKinley Morganfield were Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters.
While Kubek investigated the blues through records he bought, King, who is a bit older, heard on radio in Monroe, La., artists such as Jimmy King, Junior Parker, Albert Collins and Bobby “Blue” Bland. King, however, developed as a jazz guitarist.
“He came into the blues through jazz,” Kubek said. “He was familiar with Jimmy Reed but his main forte was jazz music. And blues and jazz are really brothers and sisters of each other and he got into the blues by being a jazz player.
“We started playing a gig every Monday night in Dallas in the late ’80s. Then we started going out of town to play places like Antone’s. We were taking classic blues songs and doing it our own way through jamming, and after a year playing venues up and down the highway, we started to attempt to write our own stuff.”
Although they’ve been on the road all these years, the new album’s title track, “Road Dog’s Life,” is the duo’s first song about being on the road. It’s an upbeat, happy song penned by Kubek’s wife, Phyllis, who contributed to two other songs, including, “I Ain’t Greasin,’ one of three featuring Wilson, best known for the Texas band the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Andersen also plays on a song, “That Look on Your Face.”
“We were very lucky to get those cats,” Kubek said. “Kid was pretty much on his way to the airport that day and we got his flight pushed up a couple notches where he could at least play on one. And Kim was getting ready to play some golf early one Sunday morning. “(I) asked Kim, ‘Can you blow off your golf game?’ He went from unloading his clubs to loading his amps and harps. He came down and it was a lot of fun.”
The album opens with “Big Money Sonny,” a true story of a gambler King knew who kept his cash in the trunk of his car.
The Mannish Boys rhythm section, Willie Campbell, bass, and Jimi Bott, drums, set the pace, along with bassist Patrick Recob on two tracks. Randy Chortkoff was the producer, David Z the engineer.
Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King
Release date: Sept. 17, 2013
Delta Groove Music
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