Music Review

Book Reviews and Reading Diary
CD Buying Guide and Music Links
Best-of lists
CD Reviews
CDs, sorted by Style
CDs, sorted by year issued
CDs, sorted by publication review ran in
CDs by San Diego bands
All CDs, sorted by band name
All CDs, sorted by album title
Favorite quotations
Contact Me

Southside meets the bayou

Double Take
Double Take
By Kenny Neal and Billy Branch

Alligator Records: 2004

Buy it on CD now from
Buy it now

This review first appeared in the Spring 2004 issue of Turbula.

Longtime fans of Kenny Neal know that the Louisiana bluesman is as capable on harmonica as guitar, so finding him playing with Chicago harpist Billy Branch on this all-acoustic recording might seem an odd pairing at first blush.

But in Branch, Neal has an equal in both skill and presence – providing him a foil that forces him to lift his already stellar playing up yet another notch.

Recorded in France in 1998, "Double Take" is only now being issued in the United States. The 12 tracks take in a broad swath of covers of blues standards, a handful of Neal's own songs (at least some of which he's recorded before), and one song by Branch – plus a new instrumental that is likely a head arrangement composed on the spot.

Trading leads on guitar and harmonica, Neal and Branch engage more in playful musical banter than in any real competition or one-upmanship. There's a relaxed feeling to the session, an air of two friends hanging together.

The music they create is a likeable blend of Louisiana swamp boogie and southside Chicago blues. The two men mesh seamlessly, and the result is a recording that's one of the best either of them has yet issued.