Southside meets the bayou
From the Spring 2004 issue.
By Kenny Neal and Billy Branch
Alligator Records: 2004
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
Longtime fans of Kenny Neal know that the Louisiana bluesman is as capable on harmonica as guitar, so finding him playing with Chicago harpist Billy Branch on this all-acoustic recording might seem an odd pairing at first blush.
But in Branch, Neal has an equal in both skill and presence providing him a foil that forces him to lift his already stellar playing up yet another notch.
Recorded in France in 1998, "Double Take" is only now being issued in the United States. The 12 tracks take in a broad swath of covers of blues standards, a handful of Neal's own songs (at least some of which he's recorded before), and one song by Branch plus a new instrumental that is likely a head arrangement composed on the spot.
Trading leads on guitar and harmonica, Neal and Branch engage more in playful musical banter than in any real competition or one-upmanship. There's a relaxed feeling to the session, an air of two friends hanging together.
The music they create is a likeable blend of Louisiana swamp boogie and southside Chicago blues.
The two men mesh seamlessly, and the result is a recording that's one of the best either of them has yet issued.
Review by Jim Trageser. Jim is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif., and was a contributor to the "Grove Press Guide to Blues on CD" (1993) and "The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Blues" (2005).