September , 2013
Review by Kat Sugg
Smokin' Joe Kubek
"Road Dog's Life"
Label: Delta Groove Records
Once upon a time, I had a firm belief that the world was divided into two kinds of people: Stones' fans and Beatles' fans, and from there you were further divided into the Mick or Keith, or John or Paul category. Or maybe you were just outright into George Harrison. Road Dog's Life aurally illustrates this belief by including two covers, one Stones song plus one Beatles song that Harrison wrote. These tracks are strategically placed among the ten originals, their fresh interpretations encouraging you to listen to the entire CD over and over. The original songs stand on their own merit. Consider the two covers as the frosting on the cake.
Road Dog's Life is the second release on Delta Groove Records for the Texas duo, Smokin' Joe Kubek and B'nois King. Following the initial unplugged release, Close To The Bone, this disc marks the 16th recording for the pair. Be prepared. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to kick back with your headphones and enjoy a little down time with two masters of electric blues.
It's easy to forget that Kubek was once a sideman to Freddie King, his own career now spanning decades, however, this disc brings him front and center, leaving no room for doubt that his destiny has brought about great things. One of the best recorded tracks, "That Look On Your Face," features the standard channel assignments, Kubek on the right, King on the left and adds Kid Anderson straight through the center channel for a surround sound experience. Followed up with a solid performance from Joe and B'nois on "Face to Face," we get right down to the nitty gritty, raucous roadhouse blues that Texas is famous for. Kubek may be one of the last of the class of musicians that brought us Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bugs Henderson, Billy Gibbons and John Nitzinger, but his technical ability, coupled with King's stroke of the pen make for some damn good music.
This also marks the appearance of one of Joe Kubek's new guitars that have been acquired since the band was robbed in the night, while sleeping, after a gig in the greater Houston area almost two years ago to the date. It has been a next to impossible task to replace his beloved "road dog" axe, Charley, named for its maker, but the appearance of this new Stratocaster is more than evident on "Come On In" and "Don't Bother Me. I picked her voice up the first run listening to the disc, from start to finish. "Come On In" showcases a new phase in the Kubek sound, as the "Indian" guitar (as it is called by the luthier who built her) features Telecaster pickups played through a 1950s Vibrolux amp to create an incendiary burst of pure listening pleasure.
My favorite cut on the disc, and you probably saw it coming, would have to be the reinvention of the Jagger-Richards collaboration "Play With Fire." I have had the pleasure to have caught the track in a run of acoustic shows earlier this year, and it is a tossup for me as to whether I prefer the electric version here or the live acoustic version. The first time I ever met B'nois King, he asked me what I preferred most, acoustic or electric sets. My answer to the question was "After years of tours with the Grateful Dead, I believe that acoustic sets are an offering to the Gods." However, whether acoustic or electric, these two seasoned musicians take a track that was all Stones and claim it as their own.
Aside from the scorching heat of Kubek's guitar and it's perfect pairing with King's vocals and rhythmic accompaniment, the recording offers some stellar appearances from guest musicians such as Kim Wilson's harmonica vis à vis with Randy Chortkoff on "Nobody But You", as well as individual appearances by each on additional tracks. We are also treated to fine performances from Willie J. Campbell on bass for all the tracks except the two covers, where Patrick Recob heads up the rhythm section. Jimi Bott is in the trap and on the skins driving the rhythm train of the roadhouse express. Randy Chortkoff pulls double duty in the studio as the producer for Road Dog's Life.
When it's all said and done, Road Dog's Life is a pretty good life indeed and is on the fast track to yet another Grammy nomination for Contemporary Blues. The album debuted at number five on the Roots Music weekly chart. Get your copy today.