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Kilborn Alley Blues Band - Better Off Now

Blue Bella Records

Release Date 3-16-10

11 Tracks, 42 minutes 13 secs

Style: Chicago style blues originals partnered with just enough Soul and R&B tunes; all tracks written by the band members except Track 5 “Watch It” written by Nick Moss and Track 11’s cover of John Brim’s “Tough Times”)

Well, it appears these 5 have done it again, and that it’s inevitable they’re positioned for yet, another ‘best of or winner of’ award, after already receiving coveted nominations and awards for their first and second releases. With rare successful starts like this, band mates Andrew Duncanson (vocals, guitar), Joe Asselin (harmonica), Josh Stimmel (guitar), Chris Breen (bass), and Ed O’Hara (drums) have only just begin. It seems they can’t miss!

I mean, who else debuts with a Best New Artist nomination in The Blues Music Awards (Put It In The Alley - 2006), follows up with their 2nd release getting a Best Contemporary Blues Album nomination (Tear Chicago Down - 2007), and ends 2009 with winning the Sean Costello Rising Star Award at the Blues Blast Music Awards held October 29th, in Chicago at Buddy Guy’s Legends Club. I was there that night and trust me, it was a ‘who’s who’ love fest that neither you nor I will want to miss in 2010, especially since I’m pretty sure these guys will be back.

Speaking of ‘back’, back to Better Off Now. Had I not known that lead singer Andrew wasn’t coming to us straight out of a Delta juke joint, I wouldn’t have known by ‘ear’ alone that he’s a white boy…hey, I’m just sayin’! Starting with Track 1’s “Nothing Left to Stimulate”, we’re bluzin’ right out of the Chicago gate with a steady rollin’ groove jacked up with some hot harp blowin’ and straight forward electric guitar. This could be the little man’s political theme song of the year. But don’t get too comfortable here, as Track 2’s “Foolsville” is going to put you on the train to a reminiscent Clarksdale sound (hey Cedric and Lightnin’ Malcolm, look out for these boys on your turf).

Grab your lady and get on the soul-blues dance floor with Title Track 3 “Better Off Now”, Track 7’s “Tonight”, and Track 9’s “Keep Me Hangin”—all gut-wrenching heart felt soulfully sung blues ballads that only us ladies can inspire a man to write and sing so deeply. Oh, and stay on that dance floor with Track 4’s “Train to Memphis” for a funky little R&B peppered blues-groove.
And so this CD goes, from one great original track to the next. Enjoy some ‘attitude funk’ with Track 5 “Watch It”, written by Nick Moss. Track 6’s “BubbleGuts” takes me to the West Coast surfer-blues era though the organ and electric guitar rifts keep me East Coast soul grounded. You’ll love their final track, “Tough Times”—an appropriate tribute to the great Chicago blues guitarist, songwriter and harp player John Brim who remained active on the blues scene there from the 40’s until one of his final appearances at the 2002 Chicago Blues Festival.

What I like most about this CD is this: the guys know how to layer their harp blowin, organ and guitar solos in a complimentary way, while keeping all the tonal qualities and profiling of each instrument clean, pure, and distinct when mixed. And the nitty gritty vocal instrument of lead singer Andrew is the icing on that cake. No one’s preposterously showcasing, selfishly plowing through it or pushing it down your ear’s throat…it all simply comes together the way traditional blues players ‘play’ off of each other’s strengths with respect. That’s how they do it in Chicago and it’s obvious these boys got a real blues alley schooling.

So, folks, that’s what YOU get when you check out this CD. Need I say more? I rate it a ‘Buy’. See you guys at the BMAs in Memphis and good luck to another great year.

Reviewer Belinda Foster is a columnist and contributing writer for Greenville SC magazine “Industry Mag” and former manager of Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’Blues. She currently books blues-rock-jam musicians and is a devoted promoter and support of live blues root music and history, making frequent trips to Clarksdale MS and the Delta Region. Her column “The Upstate Blues Report can be found on line at .

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