Saturday, January 28, 2017

Frank Bang And The Cook County Kings – The Blues Don’t Care

I have to tell you that prior to receiving this CD, The Blues Don’t Care, I was totally unfamiliar with Frank Bang. A little bit of research piqued my interest as I discovered he had been a member of Buddy Guy’s band for five years. Playing alongside Guy during that time afforded him a master class on how to play the blues and exposed him to so many of the greats.
Bang already had an impressive resume and steady work, primarily in rock bands, where he was always the “blues guy.” Those experiences just added fuel to his fire to strike out on his own with a full-fledged blues band and album.  
To that end, he began crafting material and bringing together the players. He brought in the rhythm section of Brian “BJ” Jones on drums and who played behind the likes of Junior Wells, James Cotton, and Otis Rush; and Andre Howard who played with Jones in Magic Slim and The Teardrops.
Another key component was piano great Donnie Nichilo, who played with Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, and the last addition was harmonica master Russ Green.
With all of the players in place, it was time for Bang to realize his dream.
The title track kicks off the album and within a couple of notes you are under the spell of this great old school feel. The Blues Don't Care has some fine lyrics and Green’s harp is piercing while the band rocks hard. I’m already enjoying the album very much.
The band slows things down quite a bit with The Dream. It’s a blistering number and the guitar interplay with the harp sets up the darker mood nicely. Bang’s vocals are quiet and mysterious while his guitar runs soar with more than a hint of menace.
Million Miles Away keeps the pace slightly slower and just as intense as the previous song. It’s got a swampy feel to it and the rhythm section keeps the song driving. They kick it up a couple of notches on Till The Day I Die with Green’s harp screaming the introduction. Bang growls his vocals and the guitar and harp give the song a dangerous feel.
Bang and Company keep that danger going on the next track, Come On In This House (Mercy Mercy). This one has a strong beat to it thanks to Andre Howard’s bass and Brian “BJ” Jones’ drums. They provide the perfect background for Bang’s guitar pyrotechnics.
The next track, Can't Find My Way Home (Part 1 & Part 2), is a bit longer at seven minutes and change, and it makes the most of Bang’s distorted guitar and Donnie Nichilo’s piano. Green’s harp slides in and out of the mix. The song changes direction about three minutes in and picks up the speed and the song really takes off.
Possum In My Tree starts out with some serious guitar and bass giving the song a darker feel. The combination gives the song a strong psychedelic blues vibe. This one may not be for the purists, but it’s an exciting number.
We’re back in more funky territory on the driving Repo Man. Another seven minute song, but this one is almost guaranteed to get audience members on their feet and onto the dance floor. Still Called The Blues is more of a traditional blues rock number. Shorter, more pointed with a strong harp presence, this one is sure to satisfy just about everybody.
Bang closes the album with Can't Go On This Way, a hard driving number that gives the entire band a chance to shine. Bang growls through the lyrics and you can hear places where the band can stretch out for extended breaks live, but they keep it more economical here. Good ending.
The promotional material I received said that this was a record that was “25 years in the making.” Not literally. Bang and the band actually recorded the entire album in one day, what we hear is in almost every case the first and only take on the song. You can feel that energy in every song – this is a fresh and tight sound.
The claim of 25 years is how long Bang has waited to make this album. Spending all that time in other bands, learning and honing his craft and finding the right players to complete his dream. I think the result is well worth the wait.
Be sure to check out his website, to see where the band will be playing next and to pick up the album. I think you’re going to like it a lot.

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