One Kind Favor
REVIEW BY: Daniel Camp
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/14/2008
The term “legend” is tossed around very loosely in music these days, to the point that it’s hard to determine what really makes a legend in the first place. Is it skill at the artist’s craft? Fame? Style? Charisma?
By any of these standards, B.B. King is a legend.
From the first, marvelously clean lick of “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” it’s clear that Mr. King has lost nothing, and that One Kind Favor is just another notch on his belt. A beautiful mix of piano, guitar, and the King of Blues’ rich Southern voice should make any blues fan warm with happiness. You’re excused if you instead get goosebumps.
Tracks like “How Many More Years” and “I Get So Weary” are made all the more effective by the legend’s (yes, there’s that word again) age and longevity in this profession. You truly feel that he means these words, and Lucille’s wailing tones, best heard in carefully patterned solos, only add to this feeling of sincerity. The addition of brass in the background adds richness to the sound, and is a welcome companion to the guitar present throughout.
“Backwater Blues” is King’s time to shine vocally, on a slower and jazzier tune where Lucille takes a backseat to his baritone. Here the listener is given a chance to hear the full extent of the master’s range, as well as chance to hear him exercise a tool too often neglected in modern music: volume control. That’s right, rather than blasting the listener the entire time, the King Of Blues uses the art of the crescendo to make his impact. This is also the longest track on the album, but King displays a true sign of artistic talent: making seven continuous minutes seem too short.
King’s soul is bared in the traditional blues manner primarily in the album’s second half in tracks such as “Blues Before Sunrise” and “The World Gone Wrong.” These songs are the kind that you can easily picture listening to on a rickety old rocking chair or an old fishing boat, and few other places. It truly felt wrong to hear songs like these on an iPod; these are best heard on a transistor radio (and this is coming from a nineteen-year-old!)
The album closes fittingly, with a track entitled “Tomorrow Night.” With many speculating that this may be Mr. King’s final album, this gospel-sounding ballad about the future is an appropriate fit, and the gentle piano matches King’s syrupy-sweet voice beautifully, as do the brass instruments that come in about halfway through the song. Opting for a brass solo at the midpoint rather than the traditional guitar was an interesting choice for what may be King’s last song -- but have no fear, Lucille makes her appearance.
Nothing innovative is accomplished on this album, but it’s difficult to pull that off when you’ve already mastered the genre. If this is really the King Of Blues’ swan song, let it be said that he went out on a high note. And if there’s more to hear from the legendary B.B. King, let’s hope it’s as good as this.