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The Chicago Kingsnakes - Blue Mosaic

Music King Records

12 songs; 48 minutes

Styles: Chicago Blues, Modern Electric Blues, Gospel-Influenced Blues

Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines a “mosaic” as “a surface decoration made by inlaying small pieces of variously colored material to form pictures or patterns.” That's a mouthful to say, but a sight to behold! The Chicago Kingsnakes, for the cover art of their tenth release on Music King records, have aptly chosen a mosaic. It depicts a man playing guitar, and one can easily guess its most prominent color. “Blue Mosaic” is an intricately-crafted work, offering a predominance of Chicago blues, but also containing colorful sparks of gospel-influenced and acoustic numbers. One of the defining characteristics of mosaics, the quality that causes many art fans to revere them, is this: Each stone is absolutely unique, yet contributes smoothly to the overall image. Such is the case with the twelve original, “inlaid” songs here. Some brilliant highlights:

Track 4: “Tell the Truth”--Hearing the Kingsnakes' choir-like call to honesty, one might imagine strolling into church. However, if the “baby” mentioned in this song doesn't come clean, she'll be strolling out the door! The band's leader, James “Ang” Anderson, states, “The new lineup has very strong vocal harmonies, and we wanted to capture that sound on this disc.” Here, with the help of long-time cohort Ron Berry on bass and backing vocals, they have done so with sweet, smooth artistry.

Track 6: “So Cold in Chicago”--For anyone familiar with the Windy City, this swinging selection is a real treat! Winning this CD's award for funniest lyrics, it features a frustrated James “Ang” Anderson bemoaning the temperature: “Wind shot me like a .45—I'm stranded on Lake Shore Drive. Lake Michigan's frozen. All the schools are closin'!” As listeners chuckle (and shiver), they'll quickly warm up to Nelson Keaton's breezy harp and Anderson’s tasty guitar runs anchored expertly by Gus Gotsis on drums and Mike Bailey on bass. The only thing it lacks is a decisive closer: perhaps the sound of icicles shattering, or that of a car that won't start, followed by a choice word!

Track 9: “Lefty”--Despite its unassuming title, this is Chicago blues at its finest. The Kingsnakes go all out on this rip-roaring stomp, with each instrument red-hot in the middle of their “Blue Mosaic.” Anderson proudly reminisces about his early days: “Blue Monday at the [original] Checkerboard [Lounge]—it's my time to jam. All of these Monday nights made me who I am!” Purists will delight, and everyone will dance, once they hear the opening notes of this number! The title refers to Chicago legend “Lefty” Dizz, who graciously allowed “Ang” to play his guitar.

The band chose the title “Blue Mosaic” for their latest album because the music reflects their origins in Chicago blues as well as R & B influences. “Ang” Anderson explains, “We all came up playing the blues, but were listening to artists like Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, Booker T. and the MG's and James Brown on the jukeboxes at the clubs.” One thing's for sure: out of varied and seemingly-unconnected fragments comes a cohesive whole, a mosaic made of notes and chords instead of stones. The Chicago Kingsnakes realize this, finding joy in their creation!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 32 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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