B.B. King

B.B. King
One Kind Favor

Geffen Records

By Bill Copeland
February 2009

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On this outing, B.B. King has recorded 12 colorful songs that function as much more than showcases for his gravelly soulful voice and trademark tasty guitar licks. These tunes all feature a swath of palpably good backing players who surround King’s signature sound with a bopping rhythm section, a bubbly organ and piano, and a muscular, swinging horn section.

Produced by roots music wonder T-Bone Burnett, and featuring Dr. John on piano on all tracks, One Kind Favor proves that King can still come up with albums that stand alongside some of his greatest work.

Opening track “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” is marked as much by drummers Jim Keltner and Jay Bellerose, as by King’s soulful vocal chops and sublime emotive guitar leads. Yet, it is still King, at age 82, who leads this song to new places with his personal style.

“I Get So Weary” gets a lot of help from Dr. John’s piano tinkling and a horn section that builds a wall of sound before King makes the number his own with his unique voice and guitar approach. King’s best effort among his recent records, One Kind Favor gives him many opportunities to explore his still vibrant vocal ability.

“Get These Blues Off Me” finds the great in top form. He reaches deep inside himself to find the feelings for this piece, and he lets it loose with a gravelly confidence that makes it clear King could have had a storied career based on his singing alone.

Every song on this album proves King can hold his own and dominate the sound when recording with some of the best session men in the business. King wails on “How Many More Years,” while his swinging backup band hit plenty of peaks of their own.

T-Bone Walker’s slower burner, “Waiting For Your Call,” forms the perfect arc for this album. The slower pace here lets us take in all these CD strengths as the band takes its time unwinding its fable. King’s vocal rides smoothly around the heaping thump of sound built out of Nathan East‘s knobby acoustic bass, Darrell Leonard‘s self-contained trumpet, and Dr. John‘s New Orleans- flavored piano work. “My Love Is Down” brings King’s pristine melodic notes into a tender interplay with the piano and horn section.

King owes much to producer Burnett for finding the focus of these songs in King’s voice and his likely coaching him to get solid performances from an old master. Burnett’s recording method leaves lots of space for King’s voice and guitar, while at the same time filling the rest of the band into these colorful mosaics.

The octogenarian blues great still the ability to put his own personal stamp on songs from a variety of different blues songwriters. “Blues Before Sunrise” showcases this particular asset. Originally written and recorded by John Lee Hooker, the song plays out a familiar pace and rhythm while King finds his own spaces to inject voice and guitar.

One Kind Favor proves King still has the creative juice of his youth even though his gravelly voice shows signs of maturity. This disc stands up to repeat listening, and is as strong as the classics from his younger days.

The King lives on!

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