George Bedard & The Kingpins

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As impressive as Bedard and the Kingpins' debut album was -- chock full of stylistic diversions, stellar playing and a tune selection that showed the band's wide musical palette to good advantage -- their sophomore effort broadens their horizons even further. Bedard's playing is a melting pot of T-Bone Walker blues, rockabilly, swing, jazz, country chicken pickin', '60s garage band chording, and the sleazier aspects of Chicago and Mississippi blues styles all whipped up into a most heady mix. Worthy covers come with scorching renditions of Elmore James' "Hawaiian Boogie," and a bop jazz tour de force on Red Prysock's "Zip" and the instrumental "William Tell '97." But Bedard's originals -- especially "Ball and Chain," the garage rocker "Dick Around," the bluesy "Quiet Mind," and the soulful "Lelia Ann" -- show tremendous growth as a songwriter, driving the band into new genre territory. With no sophomore jinx peeking out anywhere, Bedard and the Kingpins turn in that rarest of recorded entities: a second album that's actually better than their first.

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