The BB King Blues Band: The Soul of the King
You won’t find B.B. King on The Soul of the King , although the album is by The BB King Blues Band. Instead, the 13-track collection is something of a tribute by a working band featuring many musicians who played with the late giant, appended by a handful of guests with names that will be recognizable to anyone with even a passing familiarity with the blues. If there is a core lineup, then the liner notes don’t go out of their way to highlight them, simply listing the credits for each song. Vocals are split several ways, with bassist Russell Jackson taking four, trumpeter James “Boogaloo” Bolden singing three and drop-ins including Taj Mahal and Joe Louis Walker handling some of the others. “Irene Irene,” the lead track, co-written by saxophonist Eric Demmer and two others, is typical of the band’s approach: Guest guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s wailing solo, reminiscent of but not mimicking Mr. King’s, is upfront throughout, the gaps filled in handily by the horns while Jackson gives the vocal just the right amount of grit. (Curiously, the band is mentored by another Jackson, Tito, of Jackson Five fame.) “Sweet Little Angel,” which follows directly, benefits from the input of Kenny Neal’s lead vocal and guitar, and Mahal pipes up a couple of tunes later, sharing a vocal with Mary Griffin on King’s “Paying the Cost to be the Boss.” The band does fine on its own, sans guests, however— tracks like Jackson’s soulful “Becoming the Blues” and the band-written slow jam “She’s the One” are solid, and “The Thrill Is Gone,” which wraps things up and does justice to the King of the Blues’ biggest hit.