There have been several renditions of the Blues Kings in recent years, but the members of the current line-up look and sound like they're here to stay for a while-lucky for us! It's Jay Wilkins out front on harp and vocals, Jeff Hester on guitar, Jack Taylor on bass, and Dave Larson on drums. The Blues Kings are all about the "real deal": traditional blues.
The music room at Big Daddy's-referred to as the Landing-is small and requires the band to play fairly quietly, something the Blues Kings do very well. There is no stage; only a space cleared in the corner. Drummer Dave Larson used only a bass drum, one snare, and two cymbals. The Landing isn't a smoky, noisy bar, but rather an intimate room that is frequented by people who come for the music, listen intently, and show their appreciation with enthusiastic applause.
The Blues Kings started out with one of several Little Walter tunes they do: "Juke." Next was Albert King's "Crosscut Saw," which featured Hester throughout. Jeff was on fire on this night and he made that perfectly clear right off the bat. My favorite tune of the night was the rarely covered "Sad Nite Owl," a melancholy Freddie King instrumental that had Hester tying together some very unusual notes. Evidently I wasn't alone in my appreciation for this one; the rest of the patrons obviously dug it too. Some of my other favorite tunes were Big Walter Horton's "Have a Good Time" and Lowell Fulson's "Reconsider Baby," into which Larson threw a few surprises that cracked Taylor up. I also liked a few additional Little Walter songs, "Just Your Fool" and "Crazy Mixed Up World." At the start of the second set, Jim Flynn (brother of guitarist Billy Flynn) sat in on bass for a few tunes, including a stirring version of B.B. King's "Every Day I Have the Blues."
This band is a joy to listen to and watch. Larson and Taylor are long-time twin cities blues vets who visibly are still having a great time. Gigging is clearly in their blood. Taylor wears his bass very low and really gets into it. Wilkins has a very fine voice and adds to the buoyant atmosphere with his ready smile. Get on out to see this band soon - they are just a pile of fun!
This review is copyright © 2000 by Ann Wickstrom , 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.