Listen Up: Wednesday, May 15, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King

Roadhouse Research (Blind Pig Records)

By Ken Shimamoto

Not long ago, a blues fan of my acquaintance was complaining about “all the clean-toned guitarists in Fort Worth.” I reminded her that the alternative was Blues Hammer, the fake band from the movie Ghost World that mortified record-collector geek Seymour with the most hilarious burlesque of white frat boy blues in cinema history. This c.d. occupies the territory somewhere in between those two extremes.

Roadhouse Research is the ninth release from Dallas-based guitarist Kubek and his Louisiana-born partner King, their first for San Francisco’s Blind Pig label. Kubek’s got some cred, having backed Texas Cannonball Freddie King while still a teen-ager, but this disc isn’t aimed at anyone who’s concerned with “authenticity.” Rather, it’s a solid blues-rock effort, starting out with “Healthy Mama,” in which studio effects on Bnois’ voice make him sound like Howlin’ Wolf on steroids and human growth hormone.

Most of the time, though, King’s a smooth and engaging singer, while Kubek employs a meaty, harmonic-rich tone with endless sustain that’s a lot closer to, say, Gary Moore’s than it is to T-Bone Walker’s (the main man o’ the moment for many of those clean-toned Fort Worth axe-slingers I mentioned earlier). Musically, the material is more varied than on most blues records, with a couple of minor-key midtempo rockers to break up the shuffles and slow blues. Lyrically, on “Cryin’ Shame,” King weighs in against hip-hop (and, uh, just in time).

Kudos to Blind Pig for the photos of the healthy mama that adorn the cover slick and tray — a sensible strategy for artists as earthy and natural looking as Kubek and King. At least one Weekly staffer has voted this the album of the year, without even breaking the cellophane.



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