Kenny Neal – Straight From The Heart (2022)

Posted by Green on May 18, 2022as

320 / FLAC

The Southern state’s musical giants have always had their own distinct recipe for American roots: spiced with jazz, steeped in swamp-blues and cooked up a little differently by every artist who performs it. As a second-generation child of the Bayou State, Kenny Neal has taken his own inimitable guitar, gale-force harp and roadworn voice all over the globe. But in 2022, the Grammy-nominated blues master’s latest album, Straight From The Heart, finds him drawn by the siren call of his hometown and musical ground zero, Baton Rouge. “This is the first album I’ve ever recorded on my own turf, and it truly came straight from the heart,” says Neal, who both led and produced a crack team of local musicians at his own Brookstown Recording Studios. “All the tributaries of the blues converge here, flowing into one rich tradition.” You’ll hear all of Neal’s travels in Straight From The Heart, but this latest album brings it all back home in every sense. Lining up in the studio alongside his Baton Rouge compadrés, the respect that Neal commands on the scene also drew some special guests, including hot-tip blues sensation Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram (who co-writes and plays stinger guitar on Mount Up On The Wings Of The King), pop royalty Tito Jackson (on Two Timing) and two songs with Rockin’ Dopsie Junior & The Zydeco Twisters. You’ll even hear Neal’s supremely talented daughter Syreeta drive the vocal outro of Two Timing. “It was like a family reunion,” says Neal of the good-natured sessions. “It was excellent because I had all the musicians that grew up under me here in Baton Rouge. And just being in my own studio, not worrying about the clock.” Straight From The Heart is a fitting title for a record that salutes the many loves of Neal’s life. There’s the brass-driven opener Blues Keep Chasing Me, which tips a hat to his recently departed friend, Lucky Peterson. There’s the touching piano-led Someone Somewhere, which salutes his beloved father, harp master Raful Neal, who put him on this path. Elsewhere, Neal’s deep love for every side of his home state is underlined by the zydeco chop of Bon Temps Rouler and New Orleans, whose lyrics reference everything from “sippin’ on Hurricane” to “sittin’ on the Bayou catching catfish”. Faced with such an open-hearted record, it’s impossible not to reciprocate. And as the world opens up and Kenny Neal embraces his natural habitat of the road, this Louisiana icon will bring a little bit of that Baton Rouge spirit onto every stage he treads. “It don’t cost nothing to share a little love and a little respect,” he says. “And we can all rise above”

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