A Silver Anniversary for a Blues Band
They say fine wines get better with age. And cars aren't considered classics until they are 20 or 25 years old.
The same can be said for the King Bees, the High Country's blues music institution. This year the King Bees - Rob "Hound Dog" Baskerville and Penny "Queen Bee" Zamagni - celebrate their 25th year of "stingin' and swingin'."
To help celebrate this blues duo's silver anniversary, the King Bees recently released a new album, "Carolina Bound," featuring lots of guest appearances by legendary blues musicians, including Nappy Brown, Chick Willis, Roy Roberts, Carey Bell and Jerry "Boogie" McCain.
"We decided from the very start to quit learning blues just from records," Baskerville said. "We traveled to the Deep South to be mentored by the blues masters we have always revered, such as Big Jack Johnson, Frank Frost and Jerry McCain, just to name a few."
In 1991, Zamagni and Baskerville founded Original High John Records to document and share the talents of Deep South blues artists, such as Neal Pattman and Chicago Bob Nelson. They have also worked with the Music Maker Foundation, backing up a blues legend on the CD, "Thomas Gable and the King Bees."
The King Bees' "Carolina Bound" features Baskerville on electric guitar and Zamagni on upright acoustic bass, Fender electric bass and vocals. Zamagni also steps out as a songwriting force this time around, penning seven of the album's 10 tunes.
The pair of musicians gets studio and live setting support from keyboardists and drummers, including Phil Stinson, Chuck Cotton, Martin Henderson and David Barbour.
The majority of "Carolina Bound" was recorded in the studio with a few live tracks interspersed. The live tracks include outstanding performances of the classic blues tunes, "Natchez Burning," featuring Nappy Brown on vocals, and "Yonders Wall," with Chick Willis trading electric guitar licks with Baskerville.
While a number of blues styles are explored on "Carolina Bound," you can definitely hear an emphasis on Chicago-style and Piedmont-style blues. Baskerville's "dirty" slide guitar contrasts perfectly with Roy Roberts' clean licks on the title track. And guest vocalist Carey Bell's gruff, gravelly grumble oozes the blues on the rollicking rocker, "What Mama Told Me."
Since forming the King Bees 25 years ago, Zamagni and Baskerville have traveled all over the world showcasing this distinctly American art form. They have also performed for blues experts in the Mississippi juke joints of the Deep South "Chitlin' Circuit."
Fortunately for us, they always manage to bring their blues back home to the High Country.
"Carolina Bound" is available at all King Bees shows and through their website at http://www.mellowdownmusic.com.
King Bees in Concert
The King Bees will be bringing their blues revue to Banner Elk on Thursday, Aug. 18. The show is part of the Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce's 2011 Summer Concerts in the Park series and will take place at 6:30 p.m. on the Tate Evans Town Stage behind Bank of America on N.C. 194 in downtown Banner Elk.
The concert is free. Attendees are invited to bring picnic blankets, lawn chairs and coolers to this show. Food will be available for sale. There will also be raffle tickets for a variety of prizes.
For more information on this King Bees concert, call (828) 963-6325.