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Friday, September 10, 2010

Claudette King - We're Onto Something

Claudette King - We're Onto Something
2010, Blues Express

If your father is B.B. King it sure can open a lot of doors for you; then again the expectations are preternaturally high. Claudette King has been wowing audiences in San Francisco since the mid-1980's and has graced the stage of the Monterey Blues Festival, but has somehow maintained a relatively low level of recognition for her work. All of that should change with the September 21, 2010 release of King's debut album We're Onto Something. Produced by Steve Savage (Robert Cray, Elvin Bishop), We're Onto Something features appearances by Donto James and Sametto James (sons of Etta James), and songwriting from Dennis Walker (B.B. King, Robert Cray, Bettye Lavette) and Alan Mirikitani (Bettye Lavette), and highlights King's versatile voice and playful personality.

We're Onto Something opens with "Can I Walk You To Your Car", a wicked little number with barely disguised intentions. King shines with her love of the music here; her voice teasing and sensuous with the hints of hard living sewn in the seams. The arrangement might be called big band blues, as King and the band blur the lines between blues and jazz, and not for the last time. "Whole Lotta Nothing" is a reflection on a relationship where much is given and little is returned. King handles this with aplomb. One of the unique characteristics of King's voice is that she occasionally lapses into a vocal sound that's nearly of a child, yet this sound is tempered with the texture and weight of her voice. Some might find this an affectation, but it marks King's voice as distinct and is a highly expressive tool in her singing arsenal.

"Too Little Too Late" is a melancholy kiss-off song that sounds more like a 1960's pop ballad, balancing on the line between singer/songwriter pastiche and early Motown. "We're Onto Something" is a more positive love song, delivered in classic style. While the song gives the album its name, it’s perhaps the weakest track on the disc (which is not to say it lacks; simply that King seems the least herself here). King digs into the good time feel of "Playing With My Friends" with Frankie Lee sitting in on the vocal duet. It's a classic early R&B turn that will have your toes tapping and is certain to be a favorite in the live show. "A Dog Like You" explores the futility of trying to change a man who's prone to roam. Blues, R&B and pop creep into this dynamic arrangement as King moves from trepidation to reveling in the pleasures of indignity.

"Boogie Some" is an urgent little funk number about the sort of dance that needs no music but has a rhythm all its own. Subtlety doesn't enter into the equation as King states her intentions in no uncertain terms. It's a titillating little number that's certain to get heart rates rising on the dance floor and at live shows. "Isn't Peace The Least We Can Do" is somewhat self-explanatory, a moral diatribe against war and hatred. The song has a gospel component, invoking Jesus' sacrifice while staying firmly in a cool jazz arrangement with some funk in its genes. King closes with the heartfelt "Easier Alone", a classic swan song steeped in the blues tradition but falling more in the R&B/Pop realm.

Claudette King has the pipes and the versatility to step out the rather impressive shadow of her father, B.B. King. It's not uncommon to find the children of famous musicians making music that might not be heard at a macro level if it weren't for their bloodlines. Claudette King clearly does not fall into the nepotism exception category. King has class and grace as a vocalist, but isn't afraid to dig into the seamier side of the human condition, playing each role to the hilt; singing each song from the heart. We're Onto Something, indeed.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

As of publication date, Claudette King does not appear to have a website, Facebook or MySpace page.  Her label, may have more information in the near future.  We're Onto Something drops September 21, 2010.  You can pre-order the CD (listed simple as Onto Something) from or CD Universe.  Expect wide digital availability once the release goes live.

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