Kenny Neal: One Step Closer

Classic triple-threat Kenny Neal blends his country-blues harmonica, stinging electric-guitar licks and sly, husky vocals on One Step Closer (Telarc 83523; 57:03), his fourth for the label. A touch of Kenny’s native Louisiana comes across, via T-Bone Wolk’s accordion, on “Remedy,” while his self-penned “Whiskey Tears” is steeped in the blues.

Elsewhere, Neal veers from that standard blues program by covering such decidedly nonblues material as Bob Dylan’s “Walk Out in the Rain,” John Hiatt’s “Lovers Will” and Nick Lowe’s “High on a Hilltop.” Neal flaunts some wicked slide chops on Sonny Landreth’s oft-covered “Congo Square” and also on his own blues-drenched lament “She Ain’t Happy Unless She’s Sad,” and he strikes a soulful note on the moving ballad “You Care.” Hardcore blues fanatics may be thrown by much of the context here. But whatever material he tackles, Kenny conveys a depth of feeling that cannot be denied.