Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne is nothing short of resplendent on stage. Known for his sartorial elegance, he’s spent his life in music, a sideman’s sideman for most of his early career — a career that was derailed in 1962 when, during a gig behind the legendary Jimmy Reed, a violent incident led him to abandon the devil’s music in favor of the sacred for some twenty years.
Wayne rediscovered rock and roll, though, and by the late sixties he was backing the likes of Delaney and Bonnie and The Doobie Brothers. Now based in Vancouver, he’s recently forged a successful solo career, with three fine releases on Toronto-based Electro-Fi Records. He’s now switched over to Stony Plain, turning to the label’s go-to-guy, the great Duke Robillard, for production and musical backing.
Robillard’s no stranger to blues fans. An absolute master of blues and swing guitar, he’s also a very busy man in the studio, responsible for resurrecting the careers of several semi-forgotten legends. Here he brings his own stellar band, along with a few old friends from his Roomful of Blues days, to back Wayne on an all-original collection that’s sheer delight from beginning to end.
Wayne’s clearly having a good time here, laying down rollicking rhythms and sparkling fills over material that’s obviously close to his heart. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking, but it’s all performed with infectious humor and irresistible enthusiasm. From bouncy opener “Searching For My Baby” to the gospel rave-up of “Give Thanks” — an instrumental that finds Wayne stretching out on organ — this is definitely a party platter. Even what should probably be downbeat fare — take “Fantasy Meets Reality,” a litany of woe that finds the real world intruding on a fantasy world that’s clearly preferable — is delivered with jaunty nod-and-a-wink wit.
Elsewhere titles include “An Old Rock On A Roll,” the classic-sounding “Wild Turkey 101 Proof,” and the rather self-explanatory “Rocking Boogie Party,” which is every bit as lively as its title suggests. Wayne’s more than capable of down ‘n’ dirty, though, as on bluesier fare like “Don’t Pretend” and “Bring Back The Love,” while “Run Little Joe” brings a touch of zydeco to the mix for variety.
Performances throughout are top-notch, with the bulk of the solo space going to Wayne himself. Robillard is his usual tasteful self, providing exemplary accompaniment and a sure hand at the controls. And both the core band and guests are all veterans capable of swinging effortlessly at any tempo. Wayne is a boogie-woogie master, and his vocals are sly, assured and just plain likeable; there’s an easygoing elegance to his delivery that matches his stylish presentation perfectly.
This one’s a winner!