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Jeff Golub, a longtime sideman with Rod Stewart and Billy Squier, has compiled the expected all-star amalgam in this tribute to the blues stylings of The Three KingsAlbert, B.B. and Freddie. Yet it is his guitar work, canny and sharp-edged, that holds everything together.
Golub's playing is comprehensive in scopestinging and raw when it needs to be, then bracing and jazz-infused when you might be expecting something more overt.
Just as importantly, Golub made varied musical selections, and followed that up with some intriguing choices in reworking tunes that at first might seem too closely linked with their initial renditions. Though The Three Kings includes a number of notable covers from the storied careers of Albert, B.B. and Freddie ("Born Under a Bad Sign," Let the Good Times Roll," The Thrill is Gone" and Everyday I Have the Blues"), there are also a handful of interesting originals: Golub's In Plain Sight," Henry Butler's title track and their co-written Stumblin' Home."
Most prominent, musically, amongst Golub's impressive list of visiting stars is pianist (and sometime singer) Henry Butler. The New Orleans legend, blinded by glaucoma since birth, moves many of the songs far afield of their initial tone and feel by unfurling a spectacular array of styles associated the Crescent Citybarrelhouse blues, soaring gospel, rolling syncopations. He adds great gravelly vocals to five tracks, the best of which include the second-line stomp of Three Kings," Oh, Pretty Woman" (the A.C. Williams lament, not the Roy Orbison hit) and a hooting, harrumphing Let the Good Times Roll." Drummer Josh Dion also makes important contributions as a vocalist, displaying a gruff R&B grit over three tracks that include B.B. King's sharp shuffle Help the Poor" and the timelessly besotted I'm Tore Down."
Golub closes with B.B.'s The Thrill is Gone," but smartly approaches it as an instrumental, avoiding vocal comparisons with a version that is so deeply ingrained in the musical consciousness. The song is also a great example of the economy and grace that Golub brings to the album.
Also guesting on second guitar are a boisterous Robben Ford (Freddie King's Sidetracked") and Sonny Landreth, who adds a squalling refrain to In Plain Sight." Golub's backing band includes bassist Andy Hess of Gov't Mule and trumpeter Rick Braun, among others.