Recording of April 1991: Rhythm, Blues, Soul & Grooves

BOBBY KING & TERRY EVANS: Rhythm, Blues, Soul & Grooves
Rounder 2101 (LP), CD 2101 (CD). Brian Levi, eng.; Bobby King, Terry Evans, prods. AAA/AAD. TT: 49:53

"I ain't askin' for favors / I believe in hard sweat and labor." So begins the first cut on Bobby King's and Terry Evans's second album, Rhythm, Blues, Soul & Grooves. The song is "One Way Ticket to Memphis"; they're home by song's end, and stay there until the end of "Boogie Jam," the last cut—hard sweat and labor are evident on every single track.

It's hard to believe anyone's still making music this vital, this direct, this good. King & Evans' first album, the Ry Cooder–produced Live and Let Live!, was predictably more roots-centered; on it, King & Evans mined the bottomless shaft of soul sunk years before by Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Sam Cooke, and the Staples.

Rhythm, Blues, Soul & Grooves is simultaneously more contemporary, more mainstream, and more primal than the first record. The title says it—all four elements are here in equal quantities on each track. The ballads—"I'll Be Strong," "You and Me"—hit me the hardest, but that's just taste. Hard-driving funk grooves like "One Way Ticket" (the only non-original), "I Fancy You," and "I'm In Love" are just as strong. In fact, I can't think of a single cut I'd want to do without; King & Evans—surely their hearts are a size or two larger than normal—fairly explode with joy on every one, just like the blues is spoze' to be: you get out of feeling the blues by singin' 'em. These consummately musical guys sound not only like they've been making this music forever, but like they could easily go on making it for another forever or two.

Ry Cooder plays on eight out of ten cuts, though he's hardly showcased in the mix; truth to tell, he played much better on Live and Let Live!. Hence Powell's horn arrangements are classic functional Stax-Volt, and Buzzy Feiten (who used to play with Paul Butterfield) plays a strong, innovative lead guitar. King & Evans produced this one themselves; the recording is not nearly as natural as their first album, which sounded as if recorded live in the studio with more or less minimal miking. The mix is standard just-where-are-those-instruments-anyway? multi-mono. LP/CD differences are tiny enough that I'm hard put to describe them, important enough that the LP sounds like a jolt of reality after listening to the CD.

This is great stuff—timeless, deeply American music of which we cannot have too much. Invest in integrity—buy this record.—Richard Lehnert