The goal was to capture the classic B.B. King of the 1950s, according to producer T. Bone Burnett, and with ‘One Kind Favor,” King grants Burnett’s wish.
‘One Kind Favor” can either be ‘basic B.B. King for the beginner listener” or ‘back-to-the-basics B.B. King for the advanced listener,” so it’s really a win-win situation as everyone can enjoy the album in some form. King pays homage to some of the great blues composers such as Blind Lemon Jefferson, with the song ‘See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” and T. Bone Walker with ‘Waiting For Your Call,” but adds his legendary ‘King of the Blues” wail to each track, making it his own. For a musician who just turned 83 on Tuesday, this is a celebratory album for an extraordinary career.
King, originally Riley B. King, was born in Itta Bena, Miss. in 1925 to parents who were share-cropping farmers. His main introduction to music was singing in his church’s gospel choir at an early age, but he quickly became captivated with the guitar after watching the reverend at his church play. He moved to Memphis, Tenn. in 1947 and got his first big break a year later, performing on Sonny Boy Williamson’s blues radio show on KWEM. King began touring across the United States in the mid-1950s, was inducted to the Rock “n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and to this day has recorded over 50 albums.
‘One Kind Favor” is made up of 12 songs, each of which plays an integral role in the history of blues music. Keeping with the blues tradition, most of the songs deal with the aches and pains of everyday life, but it’s the variation of styles that gives each song a personal edge.
‘The World Gone Wrong” is a surprisingly upbeat, thumping tune, despite its gloomy lyrics. King doesn’t treat the song as though it’s supposed to be depressing, but manages to give it a blues-rock edge that makes the lyrics seem not as sad as they should be. ‘See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” is also similar in this form, but it is a standout track nonetheless.
One of the best things about blues is the repetition involved in the music, and ‘I Get So Weary” is a perfect example of this, with King’s repetition of lines like ‘when I go to bed at night,” ‘and the birds begin call” and ‘sun’s going down.” The guitar-work is also phenomenal, which may sound clich since it is B.B. King, but this song may have the best blues guitar on the entire album, which isn’t an easy task. ‘Get These Blues Off Of Me,” is one of the few slower songs on the album, but deals with many familiar themes the album is known for: love and love lost.
Seasoned rock veterans back up King on ‘One Kind Favor” and include Jim Keltner on drums, Dr. John on piano and Nathan East on bass. Keltner has been around forever and has performed with everyone from Mick Jagger to Ravi Shankar to The Bee Gees, while Dr. John is best known for his hit ‘In the Right Place” and was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame earlier this year. East, who has played alongside musicians such as Lionel Ritchie, Herbie Hancock and Kenny Loggins and perfected his mastery of the bass by playing along with albums of musicians such as Charles Mingus, Jimi Hendrix and Santana, also adds a nice touch of rhythm to the album.
If you haven’t been educated in B.B. King 101 yet, pick up a copy of ‘One Kind Favor.” It’s a great place to start and there’s no way you can fail the class.
Kraus is a member of the class of 2009.