B.B.'s Still King of the Blues

B.B.'s Still King of the Blues
(MCA Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

Story by Tony Bonyata

With a stable of crack musicians from both sides of the Atlantic, 72-year-old blues legend B.B. King has released his latest album Deuces Wild. On it he secures the talents of old friends and newer acquaintances which he performs thirteen tracks of duets with.
At times it seems like an uneven effort with misguided, if not innocently fun, blendings of rap and blues on rapper Heavy D's number "Keep It Coming" as well as country star Willie Nelson's own dreary "Night Life". But the misfires are slim on this collection, and there are plenty of reasons that make Deuces Wild a winning hand for blues fans.
On "Baby I Love You" Bonnie Riatt exudes a sultry Texas-roadhouse vocal as well as slipping into a pretty mean ol' guitar riff, and you can practically feel the chicken wire covering Marty Stuart's beer-bottle-smashin', foot-stompin' duet with King on the rowdy "Confessin' The Blues". The Rolling Stones tear into King's own "Paying The Cost To Be The Boss", with Mick Jagger strutting out with B.B. on vocals and blowing a simple, but respectable, harp solo. New Orleans' own voodoo-boogie man, Dr.John adds his gritty vocals alongside a swinging horn section on a song he co-wrote with the late, great Doc Pomus, "There Must Be A Better World Somewhere".
On King's signature hit "The Thrill Is Gone" Tracy Chapman does the classic proud with her trembling, soulful voice which marries well with B.B.'s deep-as-the-Mississippi-River vocals. English blues wonder-boy Eric Clapton sings next to King on the updated, funked up "Rock Me Baby" which they successfully turn into a finger-lickin'-good, hip-hop number.
While there is quite an array of different artists and influences on this album the one thing that holds it together is Lucille, the name King gave his beloved Gibson guitar. King is the master of the single-string blues guitar solo, a technique also known as string bending, and it shows as Lucille kicks, pouts and moans throughout the album giving an emotional intensity throughout.
With an unmistakable guitar style and deep, powerful voice, along with all the musical ace's helping out, Deuces Wild proves that B.B's still the king of the blues.

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