Though his stage name is "Blues Boss," the musical palette on Kenny Wayne's third Electro-Fi outing is anything but uniformly blue. With sessions recorded in five different cities with a fluctuating cast of supporting musicians, Kenny's stated aim was to “remind the R & B lovers of their Blues Roots, and to remind the Blues people of how sweet R & B can be and to bridge the gap a little between them.”
When he builds those bridges with carefree abandon, the results are likeable indeed. But the project suffers when Wayne tries too hard to make the connections.
True, things kick off with a pair of fairly conventional workouts – “Boogie Woogie Mama” delivers exactly what one would expect, and Dave Bartholemew's “You Can Pack Your Suitcase” sounds just like a shuffle by way of New Orleans should. But “Judge By The Book” rides its slinky groove a little too long for the rather slight lyrical idea, and “You Cured My Blues” almost drowns in saccharine sweetness. Then there's “My Sweet Little Peach,” coming off as a seventies-era reject by Stevie Wonder. Incorporating a rap from Kenny's son Corey, it's simply awful, burbling clavinet and all. Much better is the easy-going Memphis-style groove of “Let's Have Some Fun,” though the mood is quickly rendered somber by the gimmicky “Ragin' Storm,” Wayne's lament for post-Katrina New Orleans that features storm and helicopter effects and a fragment of a speech, yet still can't quite suppress the hints of “I Wish It Would Rain” that remind one of a stronger song.
Variety continues but quality is more consistent with the remainder of the disc. “Don't Cry” is catchy, and Wayne is effective on both Johnnie Johnson's “Tanqueray” and the tribute that follows, his own “Johnnie J Was Good” (the two were friends). Things close out with a bouncy “The Party's Over,” surprisingly joyous considering the subject.
Intentions here are good, and Kenny sings with honest sincerity throughout. Ultimately, though, his ambition exceeds his reach when he tries too hard for relevance or takes things too seriously, and production values seem to mirror this, with an overly respectful politeness whenever Kenny gets profound. When he keeps things breezy he's just fine, and the fun is infectious.
Likeable enough (with the exception of “Peach”), but truth be told there are better ways to spend one's listening time...