Kenny Neal/Billy Branch
Waterfront Blues Festival
Tom McCall Waterfront Park
July 2, 2005
Recorded from KBOO FM, a local all volunteer radio station. There is some inherent reception problems scattered throughout these recordings. The station is not very powerful and the team had some problems on the first day of the festival getting everything "plugged in". All in all some great music with a few tolerable "blurps".
FM > MD > HDD > CDWav (for splitting) > FLAC
No set lists or art. Hope you all enjoy the shows....twofthrs.
Kenny Neal & Billy Branch
Baton Rouge guitarist Kenny Neal teams up with Chicago harmonica ace Billy Branch, appearing acoustically as a duo on the A&E Front Porch Stage, with Kenny's electric blues band on the main stage, and in Waterfront Blues Festival workshops.
Musician magazine calls Kenny Neal "an all American bluesman ... he lays into the blues like nothing can stop him or tame him." His individual brand of blues, featuring a combination of Louisiana swamp blues, funky rhythms and soulful vocals, powered by his slashing guitar and loping harmonica, puts Kenny Neal at the forefront of contemporary blues players.
Born into a deeply rooted multi-generational blues family from Baton Rouge, La., Kenny Neal has been playing the blues since he was a small child. The oldest of 10 children, he learned the basics from his father, singer and blues harmonica player, Raful Neal. (Raful Neal, who passed away last fall, was a perennial favorite at the Waterfront Festival, appearing in 2000 and 2001 with the Hoodoo Kings, featuring guitarist Tabby Thomas and pianist Eddie Bo, and again in 2003 with The Neal Family, featuring Kenny and several brothers and sisters). Family friends like Lazy Lester, Buddy Guy and Slim Harpo also contributed to Kenny's early education. It was Slim Harpo who gave the crying three-year-old a blues harp to pacify him. Kenny mastered harmonica, and quickly moved on to bass, trumpet, piano and guitar. He first performed at age six, playing piano at one of his father's gigs. At 13, he officially joined his father's band as a bass player and four years later joined Buddy Guy's band. After several years of extensive international touring, Kenny followed Buddy's advice to concentrate on his guitar playing and relocated to Toronto, where — along with his brothers Raful, Jr., Noel, Larry and Ronnie — he formed the Neal Brothers Band, regularly backing visiting blues stars. Later he fronted Canada's Downchild Blues band before returning to Baton Rouge to begin his solo career.
Kenny cut a series of albums featuring not only his laid-back, Baton Rouge blues, but also funky contemporary gems with a taste of rock and R&B. Since joining Alligator Records in 1988, his albums have been blues hits and the critics have hailed him as one of the best of the younger blues generation.
In 1991, Kenny starred in the Broadway musical, "Mule Bone" with music by Taj Mahal and won a Theatre World Award for "The Most Outstanding New Talent On and Off Broadway." He's played with such major blues stars as Bonnie Raitt, Muddy Waters, Aaron Neville, Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker. His music is deeply rooted in the Louisiana swamp blues tradition but burns with a contemporary fire. "One of a mere handful of truly inventive young contemporary guitarists," announced the Chicago Tribune, "Neal has something fresh to say and the chops with which to say it."
Born in Chicago in 1951 and raised in Los Angeles, Billy Branch first picked up the harmonica at age of 10. When he returned to Chicago in the summer of '69 to attend the University of Illinois, he earned a bachelor's degree in political science but mastered in the Blues, hanging out and jamming at such legendary blues clubs such as Queen Bee's and Theresa's Lounge. He learned from such stalwart harmonica players as Big Walter Horton, James Cotton, Junior Wells and Carey Bell.
In 1975 Branch got his first big break during a harmonica battle when he beat Chicago legend, Little Mac Simmons. That led to a recording for Barrelhouse Records and a gig as an apprentice harp player in Willie Dixon's Chicago Blues All-Stars. Branch eventually replaced Carey Bell in that group and worked with Willie Dixon for the next six years.
During this time, Branch formed the Sons Of Blues (S.O.B.s), featuring musicians who where the sons of famous blues artists — Branch, Lurrie Bell, Freddie Dixon and Garland Whiteside. They toured Europe, played the Berlin Jazz Festival and recorded for Alligator Record's Grammy-nominated Living Chicago Blues sessions. Branch has since become a regular studio player, appearing on more than 50 albums, recording and/or performing with such blues legends as Muddy Waters, Big Walter Horton, Son Seals, Lonnie Brooks, Koko Taylor, Johnny Winter and Albert King. In 1990, he appeared with three harp legends — Carey Bell, Junior Wells and James Cotton — on W.C Handy Award winner, Harp Attack!
Branch is also passing on the blues tradition to a new generation through his Blues In The Schools program. A dedicated blues educator, Branch has taught in the Chicago school system for more than 20 years as part of the Urban Gateways Project.
Blues producer, Chicago Beau, has written, "Billy Branch has become a beacon and model for his times. As an artist and social/cultural activist... Billy Branch is a Bluesman. Billy Branch is the Blues."