Kenny Neal: Blues Fallin’ Down Like Rain

Unlike Michael Hill, who is carving out his own niche in the blues with fresh, original material, Kenny Neal plays the part of revivalist onBlues Fallin’ Down Like Rain (Telarc 83435; 41:55). Covers of blues chestnuts like Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man,” Guitar Slim’s “The Things That I Used to Do” and Willie Dixon’s “My Babe” and “I’m Ready” are well intentioned but ultimately pointless. The original versions, made widely available by ambitious cd reissue programs, are infinitely better. An adequate guitarist and harmonica player with a rough-hewn vocal delivery, the Louisiana native stakes out his own territory on originals like the loping shufle “Full-Time Fool” and the funky harmonica showcase “Strike While the Iron Is Hot.” The title track and the closer, “Can’t Say I Didn’t Try,” fall into that minor key confessional blues soap opera mode that fans of Robert Cray may connect with. But this disc doesn’t do it for me.