Kenny Neal is an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist
and is widely renowned as a modern swamp-blues master. His new release,
Hooked On Your Love, follows the triumph of his multi-award winning
2008 comeback album, Let Life Flow. An outstanding success, the
CD raked in the accolades: three prestigious Album Of The Year awards,
two Song of The Year awards for the title track, and Kenny himself
garnered two Artist of the Year honors.
It was clear that Kenny touched something deep in the blues community
with his soulful guitar playing and uplifting songwriting, and his
hot streak continues with a batch of new songs. Hooked On Your Love
covers the plethora of accomplished roots styles Kenny has become
known for. The tasty musical gumbo of swamp-boogie, jazz, R&B,
and straight-ahead blues all swirl together on this new CD.
Kenny Neal was born in 1957 in New Orleans and raised in Baton Rouge.
He began playing music at a very young age, learning the basics
from his father, singer and blues harmonica player, Raful Neal.
Family friends like Lazy Lester, Buddy Guy and Slim Harpo also contributed
to Kennys early musical education. In fact, it was Harpo who
gave the crying three-year-old a harmonica to pacify him. Kenny
stopped crying that day, and eventually learned to play the harmonica.
Along the way, he also mastered the bass, trumpet, piano and guitar.
At 13, he joined his fathers band and began paying his musical
dues. Four years later, he was recruited and toured extensively
as Buddy Guys bass player.
Following Buddy's advice to concentrate on his guitar playing, Kenny
relocated to Toronto, and along with his brothers Raful, Jr., Noel,
Larry and Ronnie - formed the Neal Brothers Band, honing his chops
backing up visiting blues stars. Through the years, he has shared
the stage or worked with a whos-who list of blues and R&B
greats at one time or another, including B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt,
Muddy Waters, Aaron Neville, Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker. Later,
he fronted Canada's Downchild Blues Band, before returning to Baton
Rouge to begin his solo career.
Signing with Alligator Records in 1988, Kenny began releasing a
series of consistently lauded albums featuring his laid-back, Baton
Rouge blues, with a modern spin on the Louisiana sound he grew up
with. Throughout this period, Kenny distinguished himself as one
of the brightest prospects of the contemporary blues scene, receiving
great critical acclaim in the process. The Chicago Tribune pegged
Kenny as one of a mere handful of truly inventive young contemporary
guitarists, Neal has something fresh to say and the chops with which
to say it, while AllMusic said his gruff-before-their-time
vocals retain their swamp sensibility, while assuming a bright contemporary
feel that tabs him as a leading contender for future blues stardom.
Blues Revue agreed, calling Kenny "one of the brightest young
stars on the blues horizon, and a gifted artist."
In 1991, Kenny branched out into the world of acting when he starred
as the lead in the much-acclaimed musical, Mule Bone, a lost play
written by the famed African-American poet Langston Hughes and folklorist
Zora Neale Hurston in 1930. Featuring music written by Taj Mahal,
Kennys performances garnered a prestigious Theater World Award
for The Most Outstanding New Talent On and Off Broadway,
and he concurrently set two Hughes poems to music on the album Walking
|After his impressive
run with Alligator, Kenny switched to Telarc, and continued to release
albums highlighting his developing skills as a songwriter, as well
as interpreting songs from musicians as diverse as Bob Dylan, John
Hiatt, and Nick Lowe. His 2004 release with Billy Branch, Double Take,
garnered Kenny a W.C. Handy award for Best Album. More recently, Kenny
released A Tribute to Slim Harpo and Raful Neal, which pays homage
to blues harp icon Harpo as well as Kennys father, who passed
away as the album was being completed.
After relocating to the Bay Area in 2004, Kenny began hosting his
own local cable TV program, Neals Place. The show
features Kenny jamming and talking with the many international blues
stars he has met and performed with, as well as local artists he has
spotted at festivals and clubs. Filmed in front of a live studio audience,
Neals Place has a relaxed, informal atmosphere that
brings out the best in the artists, while giving an unscripted, improvisational
edge to the performances.
In 2005, health problems forced Kenny to completely stop performing
and recording for a few years. And, within an eleven month span during
this recovery period, Neal lost his dad, sister, and brother. In the
best blues tradition, Neal took the tragedies, adversity and heartbreak
of those years and turned them into great songs and performances.
Writing, playing, and singing with a renewed sense of purpose and
energy, he used the time to craft an inspired collection of songs
that make up Let Life Flow. Released in 2008, the CD met with immediate
critical success. Vintage Guitar said, Kenny Neals new
release is full of blues and soul music of the highest standard. While
Neals always been one of his generations finest bluesmen,
Let Life Flow helps push him into the upper echelon of the genre.
His maturity, mastery of the music, and sheer determination show it,
making this one of 2008s best.
Living Blues magazine added, His latest effort is a resounding
affirmation of his talents as a musician, songwriter, and singer,
while About.com offered that Kenny Neals Let Life Flow
album should be considered a masterpiece.
The critical acclaim and passel of awards that followed are testament
to not only the albums soulful grooves, but also to the deep,
emotional resonance in Kennys perseverance in face of lifes
Kenny was able to return to the scene and the stage with a new vigor
and outlook on life. With these, he entered the studio to whip up
the good time gumbo of Hooked On Your Love.
The new album casts that potent Neal spell of deep grooves and deep
feelings that put him where he is today. With tunes like swampy Louisiana
look-back Down In The Swamp, the funky shuffle of Memphis
in his take on Blind Crippled Or Crazy, or the soul searching
blues of Bitter With The Sweet, Hooked On Your Love extends
the spirit of his acclaimed Let Life Flow.
Take a listen and prepare to be hooked.