It's definitely overdue - fans of Kim Wilson have wanted a 'live' recording for years - and the wait is over. Wilson signed with M.C. Records and plans were laid for this project, recorded over four nights in early 1999, in Phoenix, and late 2000, in Hermosa Beach. The last disc which featured Kim Wilson as his own man, without the Fabulous Thunderbirds in tow, was the riveting "My Blues," on the now defunct Blue Collar imprint. Offering over 70 minutes of playing time, with exceptional acoustics, this disc features two bands staking Wilson, while Richard Innes' tough, behind-the-beat approach on drums, and Larry Taylor's rumbling bass, are present throughout. The Phoenix tracks feature the tandem of Billy Flynn and Rusty Zinn, two veterans, and those from California show Wilson's eye and ear for younger talent, with Mark Stevens handling the piano duties, as Kirk Fletcher and Troy Gonyea, a dangerous duo, hold down the fort with incredible maturity on guitar.
Kim Wilson, as a vocalist, songwriter, and harmonica player, is a complete artist. His virtuosity with his chosen instrument is unmatched, while his voice is as deep and rich as any in blues today. Of the Phoenix tracks, from Bob Corritore's Rhythm Room, Wilson takes on some classics with Dave Bartholomew's "Ain't Gonna Do It" leading off. "Good Time Charlie" gets fine treatment, and the slow and moving "Early In The Morning" offers some excellent Muddy infused slide. The smoldering title track is five minutes of Kim at his best blowing the doors down as the band shuffles tight and in-the-pocket. George Smith's "Telephone Blues" is a standout with flowing vocals, swelling dynamics, plus the thick and tasteful tone Wilson finds on harp. Jimmy Reed's "High & Lonesome" hits perfect stride and Junior Wells' powerful "Tomorrow Night" features solos by Flynn and Zinn that frame a tough Wilson workout.
The Hermosa Beach cuts, taken from the Cafe Boogaloo, are every bit as strong as the band rumbles through Little Walter's "Oh Baby" in great shape. Wilson's own "Got To Let You Go" clocks in at over nine minutes with ample space for some rough guitar and another fat, in-your-face solo from Kim. The old T-Bird favorite, "Learn To Treat Me Right," takes on a more relaxed groove with hearty vocals and solid piano making way for Kim's acoustic harmonica. B.B. King's "I Stay In The Mood" is powered by razor-sharp guitar, and Bo Diddley's "I Can Tell" is nasty as Kirk Fletcher pulls out all the stops for a gripping solo, laced with double stops and triplets, space, and feverish tone. The disc closes out with the chromatic blowdown of "The Lighthouse Is Gone," another KW original.
Throughout the entire CD, one thing is clear; these guys have fun while showing respect for the time-honored tradition of blues and Kim's respect for the music has been evident from the beginning. Each member is unobtrusive playing their part and all shine when called upon to step forward. As a bandleader and frontman, Kim is at the top of his game, as this gripping 'live' disc will surely prove. Simply put, there's no better vocalist/harmonica player combination alive. A Kim Wilson show with a handpicked band of stellar sidemen is as good as it gets. A release date of late July is set, so look this one up and be ready for one heck of a good time. www.mc-records.com has info on this disc plus many other releases, or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Craig Ruskey, 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.