Paul Lamb and the King Snakes continue to go from strength to strength with "The Blue Album," their latest offering on the Indigo label. This time they have a new drummer, Sonny Below, but the overall sound remains the same as their previous album, the critically acclaimed "John Henry Jumps In."
"The Blue Album" was recorded at Purple Dawn Studios in Newcastle, in the North East of England, like its predecessor. The band have almost perfected the essence of the great atmospheric sound that featured on the Chess and VeeJay recordings from the 1950's. In contrast, however, the songs (all originals) cover a mixture of traditional blues topics, and contemporary issues. You can't get more up to date than "Millennium Blues," for example, is possibly the only Blues song about the Y2K problem: "The computer it just went crazy / The chip it just won't work."
There can't be many more heartfelt songs than "Forever Blue," a tale dedicated to the woman that means so much to the band's singer Chad Strentz. In places it is reminiscent of the best Blues ballads that Fleetwood Mac ever did. This is largely down to some very sympathetic guitar work from Johnny Whitehill, and the inevitably excellent harp playing of Paul Lamb.
"The Best I Can" is a prime example of what Paul Lamb & the Kingsnakes can do. Every band member plays his part, and all the parts fit together perfectly. It's a great song that just chugs along, taking you along for the ride, and guaranteed to get your foot tapping. The harpwork from Lamb is superb on this one. Couple that with the way that he makes his harp to impersonate baritone sax on "Crazy 'bout It" and you get some idea why he won the UK Harmonica Player of the Year for five straight years from 1990. This ultimately led to him being inducted into the British Blues Connection's Hall of Fame.
The British Blues scene is currently in rude health. There are several very good bands around, all writing their own material and creating their own sound. The rivalry is proving healthy too, and helping to make sure that all the bands keep on their toes. "The Blue Album" sees Paul Lamb and the King Snakes still managing to keep their noses out in front of the competition.
Paul Lamb and the King Snakes: members.aol.com/biedie/blues/
This review is copyright © 1999 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.