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B.B.King One Kind of Favor Album Review

Updated on April 14, 2009

One Kind of Favor

Part One

 

B.B. King has been making records longer than most of his fans have been alive.

That’s a fact.

But it’s been a long time since he’s made one that sounded like this.

That’s also a fact.

Assuming a lofty place alongside such long- treasured works like Live at the Regal and Why I Sing the Blues, One Kind Favor is vintage B.B. King.

Vintage, in the sense that it feels like it could have came from the golden era of the blues, in the 1940s or 50s.

Vintage as in it is stripped away from much of the slick-coated, smooth blues coating that has marked the King’s output on his last handful of studio albums.

Bluntly put, One Kind Favor is an abrupt change of pace.

For that, we can probably thank producer T Bone Burnett, the guiding hand of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ Raising Sand, as well as the multi-platinum O’ Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack.

And the work Burnett has accomplished on One Kind Favor is nothing short of phenomenal.

This work gets right to the origins that helped make B.B. King an international superstar.

Uncluttered and focused with a live, late-night feel, One Kind Favor lets King and his guitar Lucille do their thing.

And do it they do.

Just like they used to, when King was a hungry young bluesman, looking to play his way off Memphis’ Beale Street.

One Kind Favor doesn’t break any kind of new ground as far as blues releases go, but clearly that’s not the point.

The point is just how enthusiastically King tackles the material on the disc. He gets after it with the vim and vigor that a lot of young up-and-comers could only hope to duplicate.

Old School King

B.B. King Deeper

 

King is in a reflective mood on One Kind Favor and pays homage to some of his favorite artists by covering their songs. That’s really nothing new, either, as King always seems inspired when tackling the material of artists he admires.

But again, it’s just the way he does it on One Kind Favor that is noteworthy.

Long a fan of Lonnie Johnson, King really shines on a pair of Johnson standards, “My Love is Down” and the disc-closing “Tomorrow Night.”

King’s voice is packed with emotion and really shines on “Tomorrow Night,” and an exhilarating saxophone solo goes perfect with the mood of the song.

For a man who was 82 years old when he recorded this disc, King sounds in fine form on One Kind Favor and his vocals are still instantly recognizable anywhere.

Sure, he can’t sing with all the power and might he could 50 years ago, but the man still has the pipes to lay it down, age notwithstanding.

King’s core band on One Kind favor, Dr. John on piano, Jim Keltner on drums and Nathan East on bass, compliment the proceedings just fine and really give the songs the space they need to breathe.

The title One Kind Favor comes from another of King’s pre-war blues idols, Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave is Kept Clean.”

King chose that cut to open the disc and the song is set up with a looping drum beat and some savory slabs of Hammond B3 before Lucille makes her first appearance . Despite the moribund subject matter of the song, King transforms it into an uplifting, spiritual thing.

Normally associated with Howlin’ Wolf (or Led Zeppelin, who performed it on their debut album), “How Many More Years” is given a jumping, swinging, big band treatment by King and company, making the classic sound fresh and alive. Another song often thought of when thinking of the Wolf, the Mississippi Sheik’s “Sitting on Top of the World” is covered here, but it may be the track most lacking in feeling on the disc.

King does richly effective readings of Big Bill Broonzy’s “Backwater Blues” and T-Bone Walker’s “I Get So Weary,” another pair of bluesmen always held near and dear to his heart.

Lucille helps King navigate his way through a bed of bright ivories on “Blues Before Sunrise” and some nifty horn work liven the cut’s middle section.

All-in-all, One Kind favor is easily his best studio CD since 1998’s Blues on the Bayou and if it’s any kind of indication of the stuff still to come from the master, that in itself, is one kind favor from B.B. King to his legion of fans.

B.B. For Sale

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