Koko Taylor: Royal Blue

The world’s undisputed queen of the blues, Koko Taylor, roars with typical gale force on Royal Blue (Alligator ALCD 4873; 53:14). From a ferocious “Hittin’ On Me,” her antidomestic violence song, to a simmering slow blues on the Ray Charles-Percy Mayfield tune “But on the Other Hand,” Taylor is in classic earth-shakin’ form on this, her first album in seven years. A special guest appearance by guitar hotshot Kenny Wayne Shepherd on a cover of Melissa Etheridge’s “Bring Me Some Water” seems gratuitous and overblown, while Koko’s duet with B.B. King on “Blues Hotel” feels far cozier. Other highlights here include her stark duet with Keb’ Mo’ on “The Man Next Door,” the urgent blues rocker “Fuel to Burn,” the old school Chicago blues number “Ernestine,” featuring Johnnie Johnson’s piano and Matthew Skoller’s wailing harmonica, and “Don’t Let Me Catch You (With Your Drawers Down),” Koko’s answer to Willie Dixon’s “Wang Dang Doodle.” A lot of versatility.