Fabulous Thunderbirds' front man, harpist and singer, Kim Wilson is here with the release of his solo platter on New York's M.C. Records label. Wilson and friend Bob Corritore share the production chores laying out a splendid set of groovin' Chicago formulae and West Coast mixes. Wilson fronts two different bands on this cookin' collection of live recordings from the Rhythm Room (Phoenix, Arizona) and the Cafe Boogaloo (Hermosa Beach, California).
The Rhythm Room Band is guitarists Rusty Zinn and Billy Flynn along with the recently-deceased Larry Taylor on bass and Richard Innes on the drum kit. At the Cafe Boogaloo the band is Kirk Fletcher and Troy Gonyea on the guitars, and Mark Stevens on the piano. Taylor and Innes return to handle the bottom here as well. Wilson works up the vocals and the harmonica lines, and moves effortlessly with the changes in personnel.
Jumpin' to the fore on the opener "Ain't Gonna Do It" Wilson sings atop the brilliant stylings and interplaying axes of Zinn and Flynn. The following "Good Time Charlie" gives Wilson room to stretch the voice, while Little Walter and Willie Dixon's "Oh Baby" gives you the first harmonica workout. The latter, a seven-minute plus jam, stands aside the eight-minute traditional "Early In The Morning" with standout slide, and his own swinging nine-minute "Got To Let You Go". Both long numbers give rise to Wilson's heated harp attacks and his vocally tortured lyricisms. Outstanding cuts must also include the moving title tune "Smokin' Joint", the ever-easy "Telephone Blues", and the lamenting "I Can Tell".
The double guitar action, regardless of the band, sets a nice interactive stage for Wilson to strike up his harmonica dramatics. Similarly, he executes the lead vocal role with a solid confidence heard throughout. Standing before one of the most experienced engine rooms in the biz, Kim Wilson comes across with a symphonic, full-bodied harp sound. With some choice covers from B.B. King, Jimmy Reed, and others, Wilson cuts across the blues spectrum with this issue making it a Chicago to Memphis and back out West tour de force.
M.C. Records; P.O. Box 1788; Huntington Station, NY 11746: or, www.mc-records.com
This review is copyright © 2001 by Mark A. Cole, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, 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.