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January/February 1999

The Kinsey Report
Smoke and Steel
Alligator Records

The three sons of Delta-born bluesman Big Daddy Kinsey joined forces in the mid-'80s as The Kinsey Report. After two fine albums for Alligator, they jumped to Pointblank and pursued a rockier muse for two albums. Smoke and Steel (Alligator 4860; 57:26) marks their return to the label that broke them and to a bluesier, grittier sensibility. With Donald Kinsey on screaming, Albert King-inspired lead guitar and vocals, Kenneth on bass and Ralph on drums, the Gary, Indiana natives cook up a good ol' time on the infectious organ-fueled shuffle "Dead in Your Tracks." "This Old City" carries a more contemporary flavor and message while the brothers get down in the alley on "Can't See the Hook," an ultra-funky take on "Can't Judge a Book By Its Cover." Donald sings with sanctified fervor on the Stax-styled soul ballad "Loved Ones" and he crosses over into James Gang territory on the hard-hitting "Must Be Love." Their interpretations of John Fogerty's "Rattlesnake Highway" and Bob Seegar's "Fire Down Below" and the crunchy, ZZ Top-ish "One Step Back" are all nods to the rock world while the more traditional Delta-fied "Down In The Dungeon," featuring some righteously raw harmonica work by Lester Davenport, is a nod to Willie Dixon's "Sittin' on Top of the World." Granted, Gary, Indiana isn't as romantic and mysterious a locale as New Orleans, but the Kinsey Brothers have put together a body of work over the past two decades that compares favorably to the Neville Brothers. And Smoke And Steel may be their finest effort in years.

Originally published in January/February 1999
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