Koko Taylor is the undisputed queen of Chicago blues vocals, and this record is her first since 1993's Force of Nature
. It's a characteristically well-informed tour of contemporary and electric blues, showcasing that gravelly, saucy growl that just gets more satisfying with age. Guest musicians pop up all over the record, from Kenny Wayne Shepherd
's lightning guitar work on Melissa Etheridge
's "Bring Me Some Water" to B.B. King
's more laid-back riffs on "Blues Hotel." Johnnie Johnson
, Keb' Mo'
, and Taylor's typical cast of stellar back-up musicians, including Criss Johnson on guitar, also make accomplished contributions. Taylor's own original material, here contained in a midrecord, three-song stretch, might be the album's highlight, starting with the spare "The Man Next Door," exploding into the sax-driven "Old Woman," and winding down with Matthew Skoller's soulful harmonica on "Ernestine." Investing each song with her time-tested, raspy wisdom, Taylor shows that her pipes are still, indisputably, in perfect working order. --Matthew Cooke