King Bees Featuring The Greatest Blues Stars Review by

king bees cover

The cats at Wolf Records in Austria have been tirelessly releasing just about every bit of music that’s come their way, with the latest album consisting of 1990 to 2010 recordings by American band King Bees. What’s distinctive about this collection, King Bees Featuring The Greatest Blues Stars, is that the 11 cuts feature the King Bees, led by very fine guitarist Rob Baskerville and bass player / singer Penny Zamagni, backing a mixture of various American blues artists over the years. It’s not an essential collection, as the guest artists all released better recordings in their lifetimes, but it’s still nice to have more material from Jerry McCain, Carey Bell, Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, Chick Willis, Nappy Brown, Chicago Bob Nelson, and Neal Pattman.

The King Bees gang gives their guests plenty of room to star, unlike some similar collections I’ve heard in which the supporting band wants to have as big of a role as the guest stars. Baskerville throws in some very good guitar licks throughout the album, but it’s all about the stars of the show here. I’m especially pleased for the one cut featuring Watkins, “Beverly’s Guitar Blues,” because there just isn’t enough of a recorded legacy by her.

Chicago Bob was also woefully under recorded in his lifetime. On this album we’re treated to his Excello-style harmonica and vocals heard on “Quit You Pretty Baby” and “Goin’ In The Valley.” I didn’t recall how much he sounded similar to Slim Harpo before hearing these two recordings. Jerry McCain also shows up on two cuts, most notably a fine live recording of “Noccalula Boogie.” The live version of Neal Pattman’s “Black Rat” is also a gem, a fine example of Southern country blues harmonica. We heard plenty from Carey Bell during his lifetime, but “What Mama Told Me” is a nice addition to his vast catalog. Bell also plays harp behind Zamagni’s powerful vocals on “Alcohol and Blues.” Finally, any chance to hear one more song from the late great Nappy Brown is appreciated, and he doesn’t disappoint with a feisty live version of “Natchez Burning.”

This album is worth picking up just to hear all of these great artists one more time, and it will hopefully compel the listener to investigate more recordings by these dear departed blues legends.

Bill Mtchell from