Album Remarks & Appraisals:
B.B. King returns to his blues roots with the help of producer T Bone Burnett on "One Kind Favor,". The legendary artist is backed on the effort by pianist Dr. John, drummer Jim Keltner and bassist Nathan East. The track list includes such blues chestnuts as Big Bill Broonzy's "Backwater Blues," Lonnie Johnson's "Tomorrow Night," Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" and T-Bone Walker's "I Get So Weary."
"It's well-established that the blues, an art form born out of the Mississippi Delta cotton fields in the early 1900s, is a root of all forms of popular music: rock, pop, jazz, funk and even hip-hop. The man known as Riley B. King was born in the environment of that Delta, and has since become the most recognized name in blues - and perhaps, the most influential as well: B.B. King.
Though Itta Bena, MS has long been recognized as the birthplace of the King of Blues, he was actually born on a plantation near the Berclair community, a few miles west of Itta Bena. King grew up a little farther west in Indianola, where his itch to play the blues developed. Just days before his 83rd birthday, a Mississippi Blues Trail marker was unveiled near Berclair, and the public got its first look inside the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola. Not long after, the public also gets to hear One Kind Favor.
The collection includes twelve songs that King co-wrote with a variety of other influential artists, including Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker, Lonnie Johnson and John Lee Hooker. King plays electric lead guitar and sings lead on all tracks on One Kind Favor. The core band includes Jim Keltner and Jay Bellerose on drums and percussion, Nathan East of the jazz supergroup Fourplay on acoustic bass and Dr. John on piano, with several additional musicians contributing here and there.
The opening song, "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean," asks one kind favor of the listener. Mike Elizondo adds electric bass on this and other selections. Neil Larson plays the Hammond B3 organ, and Johnny Lee Schell brings additional guitar. Collectively, the musicians lay down an engaging track while the basses, drums and percussion carry a march to underscore King's lead. Though they sound like a cohesive unit, each instrument adds a personal touch.
"Get These Blues Off Me" is a hardcore example of what this type of music is about. The saxophones set it off in a melancholy, almost post-mortem mood. "Baby, please don't be angry with me," King sings. His famous guitar, Lucille, further expresses the pain. The horns sway, while Dr. John's piano is emphatic. The upbeat "Midnight Blues" is a finger-snapping, toe-tapping song. King's growling voice stresses key points. The horn and rhythm sections shine in this jam, while Lucille sings her heart out.
King has entertained millions with his albums, concerts and television appearances. He has won several Grammy Awards. Some are on display at his museum, which is built around an old cotton gin building where King worked as a young man. And with this release, the King of Blues has done his fans One Kind Favor." -AllAboutJazz
Rolling Stone (p.70) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "King is front and center, with a killer backing band....King is heartbreakingly intimate on standards like Blind Lemon Jefferson's 'See That My Grave Is Kept Clean' and John Lee Hooker's 'Blues Before Sunrise.'"
Rolling Stone (p.91) - Ranked #17 in Rolling Stone's 50 Best Albums Of 2008 -- "America's most famous bluesman lived his version of the stories in these standards."
Down Beat (p.74) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "ONE KIND FAVOR returns B.B. King to the studio setting of the '50s, complete with a true stereo sound and an intimate, first-take ambiance. It's back-to-the-basics B.B., and it's his best album in years..."
Living Blues (pp.34-35) - "[O]ne of his strongest in decades....B.B.'s vocals and guitar skills are still top rate."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.119) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "He and Lucille are still as one and the guitar licks come exquisite and often."
Paste (magazine) (p.58) - "Elegiac by intent, the record is awash in poignancy, radiating from the deeply felt guitar and vocal performances of the 83-year-old King and his supporting band and from the carefully chosen material."
Record Collector (magazine) (p.84) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "The song choices are all outstanding....[The songs] give King lots of room for his road-weary, half-shouted vocals and bent-note adorned guitar work..."
Personnel: B.B. King (vocals, guitar, electric guitar); Johnny Lee Schell (guitar); Jeffrey Clayton, Keith Fiddmont (alto saxophone); Rickey Woodard, Thomas R. Peterson, Charles Owens II, Charles Owens (tenor saxophone); Ernie Fields Jr. (baritone saxophone); Darrell Leonard, Snooky Young (trumpet); Ira Nepus (trombone); Alex Iles, Randall Aldcroft (euphonium); Dr. John (piano); Neil Larsen (Hammond b-3 organ); Mike Elizondo (acoustic bass, electric bass); Nathan East (acoustic bass); Jim Keltner, Jay Bellerose (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Mike Piersante.
Recording information: ElectroMagnetic Studio, Los Angeles, CA; The Village Recorder, Los Angeles, CA.
Photographer: Kevin Westenberg.
Arrangers: Darrell Leonard; Geoff Muldaur.
Though he's created some of the most essential, elemental blues in musical history, B.B. King has never shied away from exploring different directions, and some might say he's occasionally ventured too far afield. ONE KIND FAVOR should silence those doubters; with the help of superproducer T-Bone Burnett's roots noir approach, it finds King delivering gritty, impassioned interpretations of the tunes that influenced him in the 1950s. From his soulful, syncopated take on Blind Lemon Jefferson's country blues classic "See That My Grave is Kept Clean" to the Chicago-style stomping takeover of the Mississippi Sheiks' "The World Is Gone Wrong," King proves that at the age of 82 he can still turn out fiery, energetic music as undeniably vital as anything being produced by artists a third of his age.
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- Mojo Bones (Berry, Chuck)