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Blue Mosaic

Blue Mosaic

September 1, 2011
4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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By J. Ross on December 28, 2011
Format: Audio CD
As with any album I review, it's usually the cover that first catches my eye. The Chicago Kingsnakes chose some artwork by modernist painter Marc Chagall to grace the cover of their new CD, "Blue Mosaic." Like Chagall's work in which his colors attract and capture attention, The Chicago Kingsnakes blend tones and graduated perspectives into new, living forms that become integral parts of the music on their tenth MusicKing label album release. The cover artwork is a good representation of this band's cohesive personal Chicago blues vision with R&B and soul influences. Thus, the musical mosaic on this album conveys plenty of striking images and vivid impressions. The songs are all-original, written by guitarist and lead vocalist James "Ang" Anderson. The rest of the band is Nelson Keaton (harmonica), Mike Bailey (bass), and Gus Gotsis (drums). They all sing and that contributes to the band's well-executed charm that has grown a legion of fans during its nearly three decades in existence.

The album presents a lot of contrast, both in color and statement. "Sick and Tired" might have the band wanting to go back where they belong on the south side of Chicago, but "So Cold in Chicago" has them stranded on Lakeshore Drive in a car that won't start. The Chicago Kingsnakes' music doesn't give me that "chill right down to my bone." Some lyrics come off as a little awkward, and their instrumental work is almost too clean and arranged at times ... lacking some of the guts, grit and grease we come to expect in the blues. On the other hand, some of their burning music is pretty hot too, and a few of the cuts might get you to "Stop, Drop and Roll" right into their fire. These guys are clearly an energetic and talented working band with many devoted fans. I only wish they'd take on a few more elements that remind me of Howlin' Wolf. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)
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Format: MP3 Music
The Chicago Kingsnakes - Blue Mosaic (MusicKing Records)
Their first proper album since 2003's "Grass Roots", though they've busied themselves over the intervening years touring the world with Byther Smith and playing shows with Junior Wells, Jimmy Witherspoon, Cash McCall, etc. When added to the fact that Kingsnakes leader, guitarist-vocalist James Anderson, has played with everyone from Buddy Guy and Albert King to Son Seals, James Cotton and Koko Taylor, It's probably safe to assume that The Chicago Kingsnakes are some of the best and most respected blues players around.

That's certainly the impression I get from listening to "Blue Mosaic". Their style, unsurprisingly, is Chicago blues, and they play it slow and heavy, and tight and upbeat, and whatever way they play it, they play it well. Opening number "Take Your Time" is measured and intense, and highlights all their strengths, primarily great musicianship. When they're aiming to get feet moving on tracks like "Blues Gone Uptown" and the Sonny Boy Williamson(esque) "Lefty" - the latter with harmonica courtesy of Nelson Keaton - they sound like the ultimate blues bar band. It's another track, "So Cold in Chicago", that I find myself returning to. Another upbeat number, it's what they used to call a toe-tapper, but it's a bit more than that, and seems to be stuck on repeat.
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