Smokin' Joe Kubek

Roadhouse Research

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Unfortunately for Joe Kubek and his shotgun-riding singer/rhythm guitarist partner Bnois King, in the wake of great Texas guitarists like the Vaughan Brothers, just being a really good Lone Star fret slinger gets overlooked. Which is a shame, because over the course of nine albums, Kubek and King crafted a workmanlike if understated catalog of R&B-influenced roadhouse blues. On their debut for Blind Pig, the duo churn up more of the same fare they refined the previous 12 years. Their blues-rock is genuine if derivative, and Kubek is a rugged six-stringer who makes up for his lack of a distinctive sound with gutsy meat-and-potatoes playing. Thankfully, King adds warmth and class with his smooth, soulful, and entirely unpretentious singing. His relaxed voice contrasts perfectly with Kubek's tensile, rough-and-ready licks, infusing this music with a yin-yang that elevates it far above bar-band standards. Soulful, nearly pop numbers like "Tell Me Why" allow King to croon outside the confines of a tightly constructed blues tune. Suave yet tight, this and the funky "Cryin' Shame" open up the approach and push at the genre's boundaries. Bogged down slightly by obvious lyrics and song titles like "The Blues Is Still With Us" (a thin rewrite of "The Blues Is Alright") and "Got to Get Paid," this remains down-to-earth, often moving music whose heart is as big as the artist's home state.

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