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Jimmy King: Soldier For the Blues

While scads of blues guitarists strive to emulate the powerful string-bending histrionics of the late, great tyrant of the blues, Albert King, none hit the nail on the head any harder than his namesake Jimmy King. On his third as a leader, Soldier For The Blues (Bullseye Blues 9582; 52:38), the lefty six-stringer summons up his own version of bluespower with his Memphis-based King James Version Band. Like Albert and Jimi Hendrix, he’s an unorthodox lefty who plays a right-handed guitar upside down and backwards, meaning the strings are in reverse order (high E on top, low E on the bottom). This creates some wicked string bending possibilities, which he exploits to the hilt on “I’m Doing Fine” and “Life Is Hard,” a funky blues with a passing reference to O.J. Simpson’s current plight. The allusions to Albert King are especially apparent on the slow blues numbers “Living In The Danger Zone,” “I’m Doing Fine,” “I Don’t Need Nobody That Don’t Need Me” and the anthemic title cut, which carries the line…”I’m just a young man trying to keep these old blues around. I love to play for you and I hope you feel it too because I’m a soldier for the blues.” I felt it indeed on the wholly humorous “It Takes A Whole Lot Of Money.” Jimmy’s turbo-charged solo on that scintillating shuffle compelled me to run to the phone and play it over and over again to my blues-drenched Texas-based partner Ric, perhaps one of the most discerning Albertphiles on the planet. Mind you, there is no flash to this solo; not that many notes, really. Jimmy’s fingers span but a few frets and cover only a couple of strings. But the urgency of his bends raises chill bumps. Ric instantly approved: “He’s Albert incarnate! There’s an added personal intensity, but it’s pure Albert!” That assessment applies to the rest of this killing collection. Jimmy stings with a rockier edge on “You Ain’t Bulletproof” and the Jimified “I Got Sick One Day.” He sports a supremely soulful voice throughout and also displays a playful, downhome sense of Southern humor on the bawdy “Drawers,” chockful of double entendres like, “I wish you was a dresser, baby, I sure would like to ramble in your drawers.” Produced by Memphis studio veteran Willie Mitchell, this is surely one of the best blues offerings of the year.

Originally Published