The Kidney Brothers. Coal Tattoo.
ReR Records, 2013. Kidney Brothers, ℅ The Numbers Band: http://www.numbersband.com/
In 1998, the Kidney Brothers, Robert and Jack, members of 15 60 75 (The Numbers Band) did a duo performance at the Disastrodome Festival in London, put on by Dave Thomas (of Pere Ubu fame). Apparently, things went well (reports were that “grown men wept”), and later that year they put together this album, recorded at Suma Studios in Painesville. Then it sat. It has now been released by ReR, a boutique art music label, where you can buy it as a download or spend $20 or so for the CD with a full package of liner notes (or at the Numbers Band site). It’s also available as a CD-R from Amazon for less, but it has no liner notes to speak of (when will you learn not to piss people off, Amazon?).
Anyway, back to the band. The Kidneys have been around a long time, with Robert a founding member of the Numbers Band back in 1969. They have always created a fascinating mix of gutbucket blues, jazz frosting, and a bit of experimentation. Some of their music reminds me of Creedence Clearwater Revival at their best, some is just great blues. Here, the brothers do stripped down versions of some of their songs, combined with standard blues songs (“Who Do You Love,” “You Don’t Love Me”), and even a Dylan tune, “Outlaw Blues.” The results are raw, a combination of talking blues, noir/art jazz, and Chicago-style electric blues that is simply riveting. I didn’t quite weep, but I am exceedingly happy with the results.
With a duo, there’s no place to hide, so you’d better be pretty good. No problems here, since these guys have been performing for a long time, and even the flaws sound like they belong there. The talking blues songs, including the title track and “Jimmy Bell” are slow and intense, and the guys sound like they’re reaching out of the speakers to grab you and tell you a story. Others are full out, high speed chases, like “Outlaw Blues” and “Who Do You Love.” Still others simmer in either blues or jazz sauce, like “That’s Alright” “Thief,” and “Somebody Shot Him.” Sweet saxophone by Jack provides additional atmosphere. “Wild River” sounds like it should be on the soundtrack of a western movie (there’s a bit of Willie Nelson here), and “Heavy Rain” is, well, heavy; a powerful mid-tempo rave where the lyrics are spit like bullets and the guitar takes off.
You might have figured out that I like this album. No, actually I love this album. It displays strength after strength, with visceral lyrics and expert musicianship. I don’t suppose they’ll make another, but you can enjoy them in the Numbers Band, which has just put out a new vinyl release.
Personnel: Robert Kidney (vocals, guitar), Jack Kidney (vocals, keyboards, tenor sax, percussion).
Tracks: Jimmy Bell, Outlaw Blues, Roughouse, You Don’t Love Me, Thief, Coal Tattoo, Somebody Shot Him, Heavy Rain, Wild River, Thats Alright, Who Do You Love.
The Grand Wazoo