Kenny Parker brings you Hellfire Blues Guitar

Detroit is known as Motor City due to the large car manufacturing presence there but it is also as the home of numerous blues and rock musicians as well as Mowtown Records…see what they did with the name? If we combine the motor side of things with the musical heritage, we get former Cadillac worker Kenny Parker showing us that working during the day and playing as many gigs as he could at night have helped form and inform the skilful electric blues guitarist he is today. To prove that, he has recently released a long-awaited follow up to Raise The Dead from the mid-90s. Hellfire was worth the wait and it brims(tone) with fiery guitar from Kenny and the well-known guitarist from Mitch Ryder’s band and (my favourite) the undervalued Cactus, Jim McCarty. (not to be confused with the Yardbirds Jim…an entirely different beast).

The first track sets the scene nicely as the shuffle that is I’ve Got My Eye On You powers in; the two guitars trade lead duties in a magical way; the solos are all brilliant and use measured notes with runs and sustain employed to great effect. The piano adds studied plink, the bass and drums are really well connected and Dan’s vocals and harp are perfectly suited to this style of blues. Traditional electric blues with a modern edge make this familiar but with welcome variations. Baby Come Back To Me is next and injects a bit of Stax like funky soul into the mix a la Sam and Dave with some lovely B3 leading the way before yet more guitar magic from Kenny. I guess the next song is best described by the cliché ‘down and dirty’ blues. Blind And Paralyzed (spelled wrong!) has a slower pace and Kenny’s guitar and Dan’s harp are just superb as they play the traditional phrases in harmony. Bye Bye Baby is a good old time rock and roll number with some all too brief and wonderful slide from Jim and picking from Kenny. The swamp miasma is tangible on the blues-rock of the title track, Hellfire. The guitars and harp intro is genius and then the two guitarists add phrases that are planned and executed perfectly. The solos are similarly well judged and have just the right amount of notes played with real feel…red-haired Ruby is Hellfire indeed. A harp led blues shuffle with bite is next as Goin’ In Circles brings some swing with the piano solo and fans the flames for the guitar and harp solos. Jump blues gets its turn on Dance With Me and is modern take on what (so, my Dad told me!) is called a floor-filler. The guitar solo is a great combination of clever multi-string work as well as rapid fire picking of quality. The bass and drums are a treat too as the bass artfully takes the place of a tuba…listen carefully. Time for a blues ballad? Yes, indeed it is as the tears could well flow as you listen to I’m Missing You…the lyrics are heart-wrenching enough, although the spoken word section may seem a bit twee on first listen as you’ll be expecting Shep to feature. The instruments do just as much tugging as the B3 washes across the background and the guitars wring the emotions out of every carefully planned note. After that, its time for a 60s R’n’B party with And Then We Danced providing some soulful blues with a mid-paced bounce: the two guitar solos are, yet again, worth the entrance fee. Half Crazy ups the pace and brings great harp and piano interwoven with seriously good guitar. I am still trying to work out what Dan means when he says “batteries for what?” over the hi-hat at the very beginning. Penultimate track, Back-up Plan, has a traditional slow twelve bar blues construction but when Kenny and Jim bring this quality of playing and feel, who cares? I could listen to these two trade solos forever! The final track is a live version of an Omar and the Howlers song called Hard Times In The Land Of Plenty. The band seems to have a ball as they channel the blues of MC5 and expel serious energy in this great rendering and the guitars, once again, show fluidity and class.

This is a great album that may not break new ground, but it is chock full of quality songs and playing that take the blues tropes we revere and remodels them for today. So, if you love your blues guitar, this is a worthwhile addition to the collection and it repays multiple listens to fully appreciate the skills and technique that Kenny (and Jim) employ throughout.

NINEpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track listing:

  1. I’ve Got My Eye On You
  2. Baby Come Back To Me
  3. Blind And Paralyzed
  4. Bye Bye Baby
  5. Hellfire
  6. Goin ‘In Circles
  7. Dance With Me
  8. I’m Missing You
  9. But Then We Danced
  10. Half Crazy
  11. Back Up Plan
  12. *Hard Times In The Land Of Plenty


  13. All tracks by Kenny Parker except *, by Omar Kent Dykes



    Musicians:

    Kenny Parker: guitars

    Jim McCarty: guitars

    Dan Devins: vocals, harmonica

    Mike Marshall: bass

    Dave Marcaccio: drums

    Bill Heid: keyboards

    Kenny Parker brings you Hellfire Blues Guitar

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