Kenny Neal & Billy Branch
(Isabel (2003) IS 649801)
by Craig Ruskey
Review date: February 2003
"Keeping the Blues Alive Award"|
Achievement for Blues on the Internet
Presented by The Blues Foundation
The glut of recordings dropped on the blues market in recent years is a welcome addition for most, but a good portion of them have hardly seemed worth either the money or time invested. Few and far between sound as magnificent and rewarding as the Easy Meeting between Kenny Neal and Billy Branch. Although recorded in France in 1998, mastering wasn't completed until October of 2002, but this session is a much welcomed addition from both artists. Neal and Branch sat down for a mostly acoustic date and in the process paid tribute to St. Louis Jimmy with a fine version of Going Down Slow, and two Little Walter gems; I Just Keep Loving Her, where Branch offers stunning harp, while My Babe is a fresh take on a well-worn warhorse. Vocal duties are evenly split between the duo with both appearing relaxed and solid; Neal's Early One Morning is impressive, and a slow and gripping Going To The Country could easily have been tracked five decades ago. Branch makes use of an amplifier for Sonny Boy Williamson's Don't Start Me To Talking and delivers a warmly distorted harp tone, and both plug in for Willie Dixon's Mannish Boy and Billy And Kenny's Stomp should remind some of the rich offerings from the Maxwell Street neighborhoods in the late 1940's. Busy Bee mines Slim Harpo territory and Branch's Northern Man Blues is a slow and rich grind with more distorted harp, and the disc closes with Neal's minor-key The Son I Never Knew, one of two takes, each of them lowdown and gritty. The depths of passion reached by Kenny Neal and Billy Branch are matched by their enthusiasm throughout and they manage a telepathy that makes them seem as if they're joined at the hip. www.nightday.fr. 12 tracks, 58 minutes.
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