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The Kilborn Alley Blues Band - Tear Chicago Down
By Karen McFarland

From the opening North-Mississippi chords and boogie beat of “I’m Spent,” the first track of The Kilborn Alley Blues Band’s release Tear Chicago Down, you know you’re in for some deep blues. That’s a sign of a good CD right there—that the opener is full of energy and great musicianship. Another plus:  Most of the twelve cuts feature a Chicago blues feel that sounds so familiar that it’s hard to believe every single song was written by the Kilborn Alley Blues Band.

According to James Walker in the liner notes, “In the tradition of the Chicago blues band created by Muddy Waters, the emphasis in each song is on the ensemble” rather than guitar pyrotechnics or drawn-out harp solos.  Producer Nick Moss notes that the best thing about Kilborn Alley is “They have this great feel when they play together.  In the blues world it is actually a compliment when someone says you have an ‘ignorant’ sound.  These guys have a real ignorant, authentic sound.  They sound like the old records when they play.”   That’s an accurate assessment of what Tear Chicago Down is all about.

Combining their efforts in the band are Andrew Duncanson on guitar and vocals, Josh Stimmel—guitar, Joe Asselin playing harmonica, Chris Breen on bass, and Ed O’Hara on drums.  Nick Moss contributes guitar on a few cuts, and Gerry Hundt plays organ on four tracks.  The title track, a funk number, includes Abraham Johnson on second vocal and Dave Fauble on sax.

Fortunately for us listeners, the promise of the opening cut is fulfilled on the rest of the album.  “Fire with Fire”  is reminiscent of the Thunderbirds;  my favorite song, “Crazier Things,”  sounds as though Muddy himself was in the studio supervising.

“Come Home Soon” is a mixture of southern rock and soul, where Duncanson’s vocals remind me of a rawer-voiced Van Morrison channeling Sam Cooke, and  “The Weight on You” takes us down to Memphis too.  “She Don’t Know” has a West Coast swinging jump to it by way of Chicago.

I wasn’t sure I liked “Redneck in a Soul Band” on first listen—with a harp underpinning and shuffle backbeat, it’s a hybrid of a country ditty crossed with a train song.  But the CD ends with an alternate take of the same song, this time done in a Chicago-blues style that had my toes tapping and my blues-o-meter in the red.

This is the second album by the Kilborn Alley Blues Band.  Their debut, also on the Blue Bella label, was nominated for a Blues Music Award in 2006.  Tear Chicago Down showcases an even tighter band that deserves wide recognition for its ensemble talent and true blues feel.

Reviewer Karen McFarland is a former officer and long time board member of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society. She is also a former member of the board of directors of the Blues Foundation who was recently re-elected for another term on their board.

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