The smile on Kenny Neal's face on his latest two albums suggests that he is
pretty pleased with the results. Closer inspection confirms that he has
every right to be satisfied. On "One Step Closer" Neal continues to take
things forward, this time showing off a mellower, more laid back side to
"No More One More Chance" gets the show on the road, and there is a
noticeable change of sound from last time around. Neal's gritty vocals are
still there, but this time they are balanced by those of Andrea Re. The
versatility of Neal is still in evidence, though, as he plays harp and some
fine ringing guitar. It is the first of a couple of tunes written by the
prolific Fred James, the other being "One Step Closer To The Blues," a
lower and slower ballad.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is the fact that Neal only contributes a
couple of tunes. The choice of songwriters is exemplary, however,
including the likes of John Hiatt, Bob Dylan and Nick Lowe. In each case,
Neal gets inside the song to add his own imprint. The net result is that
there is a Louisiana feel running through the album. This is particularly
evident on the likes of "Remedy" which has a great swamp feel to it,
"Hidden In Plain Sight" which also contains some very nice accordion, "Back
Door Tipper" with some fine uncredited piano, and the almost Meters-like
interpretation of Sonny Landreth's "Congo Square."
The original tracks are saved until last. The first of these, "Whiskey
Tears" is the one that comes closest in sound to Neal's previous album
("What You Got"). It is an upbeat funky number, which features some very
neat flashes of guitar work. The album then rounds off very in style with
the slide guitar of "She Ain't Happy Unless She's Sad."
Kenny Neal's "One Step Closer" is just the latest in a string of top drawer
blues releases from Telarc (www.telarc.com). Although Neal sounds a lot
more relaxed than on "What You Got," the album is a finely honed effort
which contains no unnecessary frills or embellishments. "One Step Closer"
is the perfect accompaniment for those warm summer evenings.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.