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B.B. King
One Kind Favor
Geffen Records
www.bbking.com


B.B. King's One Kind Favor had every appearance of being a match made in heaven. In one corner, you had a certifiable blues legend - B.B. King - and opposite him, you had T-Bone Burnett, Americana music's best producer and a man that cut his teeth producing and playing the blues. Lastly, you had twelve fine songs for King to play and sing his guts out on.

While this collection swings quite nicely most of the time, it never quite catches fire. And without any fire, the room cools off uncomfortably and quickly. Sure, it's great to hear King singing favorites like "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" and "Sitting on Top of the World". But in only a few instances, as on "Waiting for Your Call", does that beautifully gruff King vocal style come shining through. Instead, King croons far more than he crackles. There are plenty of crooners in this world, most of them lame and holding down Vegas residencies, but only one B.B. King. We want to hear King shout them blues, and not sing us harmless cocktail music.

Why couldn't he have recorded 12 songs that were akin to "When Love Comes To Town", his memorable duet with Bono and U2? Perhaps he needs a young buck (okay, a slightly younger buck) like Bono to light a fire under him. For example, what would happen if Jack White produced a B.B. King album and invited My Morning Jacket and The Black Keys to help out? I'll bet that would be a smokin' jam session.

It's probably blasphemy of some sort to criticize T-Bone Burnett, especially after all the Grammy Awards he just won for his Krauss/Plant collaboration. But I get the feeling he was just a tad too respectful of the King. He surrounds the man with topnotch players who also seem subservient to their master.

A lot of people really like this CD. Many think it marks a return to form for B.B. King. But to these ears, King is only half way back and moving slow. So do me one kind favor, won't you? Somebody please introduce B.B. King to Jack White.

-Dan MacIntosh

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