Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King

Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King
Have Blues, Will Travel

Alligator Records

By Karen Nugent
June 2010

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Wild Texas guitar slinger Joe Kubek and the laid-back Louisiana-born jazz man Bnois (it’s a Cajun name) King have always seemed like an unlikely combination. Kubek grew up listening to 1960s blues-rock guitar bands. King is a versatile jazz and blues journeyman guitarist who writes unbelievably wry and poignant lyrics.

King moved to Dallas in 1979 and met up with the younger Kubek ten years later. Since Kubek did not sing, King began writing and singing to great success. Some of his lines are like poetry: “darkness wrapped around me like a second skin.”

This is the pair’s second release on Alligator, and the 14th of their 20 years playing together. The fun and camaraderie that has developed is obvious on this 12-track disc. All songs are originals written or co-written by King and Kubek, with Alligator president Bruce Iglauer listed as a co-writer on two tracks.

The disc opens with the title track--a party tune--with some nifty King lyrics about his life “starting to unravel.” (What other blues lyricist would come up with that word to rhyme with “travel?”)

In fact, the entire disk could be used for a good ol' all-night party. The guitar work between the two makes for some hip-shaking roadhouse blues that is nice and loud. A few smoldering slow blues tracks like “Out of Body, Out of Mind” suffice for the slow dancing crowd.

A favorite on the disc is the fourth track “RU4 Real?” which talks about “pork chops in your jaw and collagen in your lips/silicone in your chest, no tellin' what’s in your hips.” You might conclude that whoever King is singing about has “had some work done.” It’s hilarious.

Another great cut is the shuffle “My Space or Yours?”, another clever take on e-mail, texting and all things digital. (“Want to get my hands on your keyboard” and “No viruses, baby.”) Again, the song features the unique back-and-forth chemistry of the two guitars--Kubek with his wicked, searing slide and King with his unpredictable but dignified solos and tasteful rhythm guitar.

“My Guitar” toward the end of the disk sounds a little like “Chicken Shack” at the beginning, and has King singing about “the one thing in [his] life that has not failed [him] so far.” That’s for sure.

In all fairness, it should be mentioned that few songs on the disk tend toward the country side of the street. But hey, they’re from Texas, not Chicago.

These two don’t tour around these parts very often. They are quite the combo, so checking out their disks is well worth it.

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