Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
This disc reveals what all the hype was about
Tim Holek | 04/29/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
Big News from Baton Rouge!!
Looking to return to an era that spawned a generation of young blues musicians like Lucky Peterson, Lurrie Bell, Billy Branch, and Kenny Neal? Neal was approximately 30 years old when Big News From Baton Rouge!! was first released on Bob Greenlee's King Snake Records. A little while later, the album came to the attention of Bruce Iglauer. After adding three tracks, and remixing the LP, Iglauer re-released it on his Alligator Records label, and Kenny Neal's career was jump-started. The chief contributor to the album's success appears to be Greenlee. He co-wrote six of the 10 songs and co-produced the record. There are many similarities with this disc and Peterson's debut. Both were recorded at King Snake Studios, feature Greenlee as producer, songwriter, and bass player, and include many of the same session musicians.
When it comes to the blues, Neal didn't spend much time on the outside looking in, as reflected in the autobiographical "Bio On The Bayou". Ironically, "Outside Looking In" is the lead-off track on this 40-minute debut from 1988. Like Peterson, Kenny Neal is a triple threat with flamboyant guitar, full-throttle harp, and charismatic vocals. For someone who was young (at the time of this recording), Neal's vocals are full, deep, and rich. He wisely arranges the songs to showcase these qualities. The opening number is hip, funky, and groovy. Listen as the punchy horns and swaying keyboards push Neal to new heights. This remains one of my all-time favorite Kenny Neal tunes. "Don't Dip In My Business" is a rockin' boogie with a Texas Tijuana twist, courtesy of the swinging horns. The song was influenced lyrically by "T'Ain't Nobody's Bizness" and musically by Neal's time spent with Canada's Downchild Blues Band. More Downchild impressions are found on "Loretta". You'd swear Bobby Rush is performing "Evalina" in front of a down-home chitlin' circuit crowd. Here, the funky bass and drums have more heat than a Caribbean calypso fire dance. Throughout, Peterson and Kenny Burch's explosive keyboards get more than noticed.
Relative to other Kenny Neal CDs, this one is typical. Neal would mature to improved releases. However, this disc is a crucial part of his career, since it reveals what all the hype was about. You'll instantly sense that competitive edge which makes Neal credible and likeable across the genres. This debut is a clear indication that Kenny Neal was a major find, and would become a strong force on the blues scene. On "Is It All Right?" Neal sums it up: ("its my turn / I'm ready to burn").
--- Tim Holek
A solid debut album
Docendo Discimus | Vita scholae | 06/07/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Kenny Neal's debut LP, originally released in 1987 on King Snake Records, is not the most distinctive of his Alligator albums. But you really can't go wrong with anything Neal has put out, and while "Big News From Baton Rouge" doesn't reach the level of later releases like "Devil Child" and "Hoodoo Moon", it is far from being a bad record.
The opener, "Outside Looking In", is probably the best song on the disc, a swaggering, horn-driven number, and other highlights include "Cost Of Living" (which also features a nice guitar solo), the acoustic country blues rendition of "Early One Morning", and the slow grind of "Caught Your Back Door Man" and the soulful "Baby Bee".
I know that some people dislike the idea of a horn section on a blues album, and I'm not that fond of it either. But the small, punchy horn sections which often back Kenny Neal on his Alligator albums are generally well scored, and they never overwhelm either his singing or his playing.
Kenny Neal plays some excellent harmonica and a few gritty guitar riffs on "Big News", although his guitar playing is not as prominent as on most of his other albums. His rough but flexible voice is a major asset, and the fact that he writes or co-writes the vast majority of his own songs makes him a rare and valuable bird these days.
Neal's songwriting on "Big News" is not his very best, though, and this is not the place to start if you're a newcomer. But there are certainly enough tasty bits to make it worthwhile, and fans will want this album - and everything else Raful Neal's son has ever recorded - in their collection."