Album Reviews

Kenny Neal


Artist:     Kenny Neal

Album:     Bloodline

Label:     Cleopatra Records

Release Date:     07/22/2016


Born in New Orleans and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Kenny Neal was inevitably immersed in the blues from infancy. His father, the renowned singer and harmonica player Raful Neal, taught him from a very young age. Not to mention he was surrounded by the best rhythm and blues talent around due to his father’s celebrity. Slim Harpo, for instance, gave Kenny Neal his first harmonica. Neal joined his father’s band at the age of 13, only to be recruited to tour as Buddy Guy’s bass player four years later. His new album, Bloodline, traces the traditional Baton Rouge blues lineage that Neal preserves and sustains. The album is also an appreciation of Neal’s musical roots, acknowledging himself to be a part of a larger musical family tree. He has recorded this album featuring his brothers and sisters singing background vocals and Noel Neal on the bass.

“Ain’t Gonna Let the Blues Die” honors some of the great blues and rhythm and blues artists whom Neal has played with, including B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Lazy Lester, Buddy Guy, and John Lee Hooker with reverent lyrics like:

I heard someone told me keep the blues alive
I heard someone told me don’t let the blues die
We had Muddy Waters with the mojo hand, we had Jimmy Reed with the big brass band
We had Otis Redding sitting at the dock of the bay, we had Ray Charles tell me what I say (hit the road jack)
We had Freddie King playing the hideaway, we had Howlin’ Wolf howlin his blues away…
All you legends, look at what you did, I ain’t gonna let the blues die.

“Real Friend” holds a subtle Louisiana Cajun flavor, with a melismatic trumpet solo and a prominent brass chorus fused with gospel organ accompaniment. This album combines blues swing and fast southern rhythm and blues into a message of alacrity for life and friends, a lauded cheer for traditional blues, which is hard to miss when Neal wails with vibrato on his harmonica.

If you’ve been having the blues lately, check out Kenny Neal’s Bloodline. 

-Julia Egan

Got something to say?