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The Three Kings (feat. Henry Butler)

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Album Review

If one-time smooth jazz guitarist Jeff Golub got his feet wet in the blues world with his previous release, 2009's Blues for You, he jumps into the ocean on this follow-up. As its title implies, he covers the music of the three unrelated Kings of the blues; B.B, Albert, and Freddie. It's not exactly a unique concept, but it works as an excellent vehicle for the guitarist to strut his stuff. Even if some of the choices are on the obvious side (does anyone really need another version of "The Thrill Is Gone" at this point, even if this one is an instrumental?), he lets loose on solos with an edgy abandon that was only hinted at on the majority of his early, far slicker work. There is still a lingering polished quality to some of this, but the appearance of guest pianist/vocalist Henry Butler — who also gets star billing on the disc's cover — fellow jazz/bluesman Robben Ford, and slide wizard Sonny Landreth go a long way to making this Golub's most incisive guitar outing. Horns pop up occasionally, adding Memphis soul to "I'm Tore Down" and "Oh Pretty Woman," and a jump/big-band influence to "Everyday I Have the Blues." Butler takes the sound down to New Orleans on his original that sums up the concept in "Three Kings" as Golub adds fiery if short solos. The guitarist also contributes the self-penned "In Plain Site," a second-line beat-driven instrumental that gives him and Landreth room to stretch out even within its rather short three-and-a-half-minute running time. He also opens up on Freddie's "Side Tracked," tossing off Clapton-styled licks that are both fluid and sharp, then slows things down with "Freddie's Midnight Dream," a terrific and relatively obscure find that provides Golub with plenty of space to solo within its gospel-styled framework, providing what is arguably the disc's finest moment. Golub's an established pro, but with The Three Kings, he's expanding his vision into roots music that shows off his talents far better than the more commercialized approach he has built his reputation on.

The Three Kings (feat. Henry Butler), The Jeff Golub Band
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