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(Maiden Voyage Records 77623 As broadcast on WVIA-FM 11/23/2005)
Rock and pop bands come and go at a fairly brisk pace. But jazz and blues performers tend to develop tenure, with many having careers that extend beyond a quarter century or more. It's also not that uncommon for blues bands to continue for decades. This week we have a CD by a first-rate blues band that may not yet qualify for a longevity award, but they have certainly been together for longer than most rock bands. Chris Daniels and the Kings are out with a new CD called 10, a title which is indicative of the ordinal number of this CD in the band's output, accumulated over a 21-year career.
This large Colorado-based blues group with horns, formed by its namesake, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, Chris Daniels played its first gig in 1984, and set out to create upbeat funk-influenced music that borrows from both Memphis and New Orleans. Over the years, they have accumulated the plaudits of critics both in the US and abroad, where they have a good following especially in the Netherlands. Their sound lives up their goals, with a tight rhythm section and horn arrangements that makes this a great party band with classy musicianship. Live, they can also be part of the jam-band scene, especially coming from a state which has spawned such groups as the String Cheese Incident, and Leftover Salmon. Chris Daniels also originated the "after hours jam" at the Telluride Bluegrass festival, expanding the festival's musical scope some, and the band jammed over the years with Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Tim O'Brien, Lyle Lovett and others.
The new CD, though, is a more succinct studio effort, with nary an extended jam, and just a few guests, but it's a thoroughly infectious CD with great rhythmic grooves and songs that range from outright party music to some that touch on the state of the world. The bulk of the music is original, but they do take up a few covers from interesting sources ranging from the Average White Band to Howlin' Wolf.
The seven member band includes Daniels on guitars, both electric and acoustic, as well as most of the lead vocals. The rest of the current lineup of the Kings includes bassist Kevin "Bro" Lege, Christopher Stongle on drums, Dean Le Doux on keyboards, and Colin Bruce Jones on additonal guitars. There are two regular horn players, saxophonist Jim Waddell, and trumpeter Darryl "Doody" Abrahamson They are supplemented on some of the tracks by two more horns, as well as vocalist Hazel Miller.
The quality of their musicianship sets Chris Daniels and the Kings apart from many bands touring the country doing this kind of thing. Daniels and the Kings features great horn arrangements, and the level of interaction among the musicians, honed through playing close to 200 shows a year, is impressive, adding up to music that may be familiar in concept but is singular in execution.
Leading off is one of those party songs, Howlin' at the Moon. It lives up to expectations, with a great groove and strong horn-section work. <<>> Adding to the fun is the inclusion of some howling from a home-state audience. <<>>
Killing Floor is song written by Howlin' Wolf that has been covered over the years by people from the Electric Flag to David Bromberg. The lyrics are put in a different light by opening the track with quote from George W. Bush. <<>> Otherwise, the band takes it to more of a funky rock groove than the original. <<>>
Another of the covers is Soul Mine by the 1970s group the Average White Band. Daniels and company give the tune a more energetic spin, and the result is a strong track. <<>>
A bit of a change of pace is Bluz Cruz, on which Daniels plays an acoustic resonator guitar. The lyrics are pure party time, or at least the pursuit of it though the quest for blues music. <<>>
Admittedly influenced by the title of the blues classic Come On in My Kitchen is the Chris Daniels original Come Sit Down in my Kitchen, but the mood is decidedly different. It's the closest thing to a pop song on the CD. <<>>
One of the highlights of the album is the band's great version of the old Memphis soul song Who's Makin' Love, on which the band cooks. It sounds as if they have been playing this tune on the road forever, they way they are locked into the groove. <<>>
The group also gets some social commentary into an original composition by Daniels called It's All Good. Musically, it even sounds like a more serious song, with the band getting surprisingly atmospheric. <<>>
The CD ends with probably its rockiest track, Crossfire, a song by the members of Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble band. This band rises to the volume level, but except for a guitar solo by Daniels, the tune does not seem to catch fire as much as elsewhere on the album. <<>>
Chris Daniels and the Kings' new tenth album called 10, which incidentally features ten songs, is one of the best yet from this long-running Colorado based soul, blues and funk band with horns. They cover a fair number of bases musically without losing their stylistic focus, and the group can keep you dancing, even when they take a slightly more serious turn. The combination of strong original material and creative reworkings of older songs from different sources, makes this an album that you can party to, but also stays interesting. And the quality of the playing is certainly first-class.
Our grade for sound quality is an "A." The sonic clarity is commendable, and the it's got a great punchy sound that enhances the danceability, thanks to a respectable dynamic range for this kind of music.
On the one hand there is party music, and on the other, music that may try to change the world. Chris Daniels and the Kings definitely are in the party mode for much of their new CD, but they are not without their profundity, both musically and lyrically. 10 makes a great way to get to know this long-running band.
(c) Copyright 2005 George D. Graham. All rights reseved.
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