Authenticity will never be an issue with regard to Kenny Neal’s music. The oldest son of Baton Rouge mainstay Raful Neal, he was born to the blues. On One Step Closer, Kenny conjures up Louisiana’s rich, musical traditions and steers them in imaginative, new directions.
Tackling a wider range of material than ever before, Neal manages to put his signature on all twelve songs. One Step Closer includes soulful renditions of Bob Dylan’s "Walk out in the Rain," Nick Lowe’s "High on a Hilltop," John Hiatt’s "Lover’s Will," and Colin Linden’s "Hidden in Plain Sight" and "Remedy."
Not only is the guitarist/singer/harmonica player one of the most consistent talents in contemporary blues, Neal is also a seasoned songwriter. His talents shine brightest on richly textured originals "Backdoor Tipper," "No More One More Chance," "Whiskey Tears" and "She Ain’t Happy Unless She’s Sad."
Helping support the groove on One Step Closer are Denny Breau, rhythm guitar; Mary Jo Carlsen, violin; Andrea Re, backup vocals and percussion; Jason Ward, baritone saxophone; T-Bone Wolk, bass, mandolin and accordion; and Darren Thiboutot, drums.
Kenny Neal, a native of Baton Rouge, was born in 1957. His father is a blues singer and harp player, and story has it that Kenny was only three when Slim Harpo gave him his first harmonica as a pacifier. He learned to play bass in his father’s band as a teenager, and at seventeen went on the road with Buddy Guy. He worked with Guy from 1976 to 1979, then formed the Neal Brothers Band and moved to Toronto. Now back in Baton Rouge, when Kenny isn’t on the road, he’s busy restoring his 1947 Buick Special and working on his house.
Neal’s fourth Telarc recording comes on the heels of 2000’s What You Got (CD-83467) and 1999’s exceptional Homesick for the Road (with Tab Benoit and Debbie Davies, CD-83454). His 1998 Telarc debut, Blues Fallin’ Down Like Rain (enhanced CD-83435), was a mix of classic standards and original material.
Although most blues insiders agree that Kenny Neal came into his own a long time ago, One Step Closer proves the man from Baton Rouge is just getting started.