Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne,
Jumpin' & Boppin'
(Stony Plain, 2016)

Most album titles offer no clue to their content, but Jumpin' & Boppin' comes as close as any I've seen recently. And if you like the idea expressed therein, you'll find plenty of it in these grooves.

In his third CD for the Edmonton, Alberta-based roots label Stony Plain (I reviewed the others in this space on 27 August 2011 and 12 July 2014), piano pounder Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne goes to the deep well of mid-century African-American popular music, out of which rock 'n' roll was soon to float. Though almost all of the songs are originals, they celebrate the styles associated with Jimmy Yancey, Little Brother Montgomery, Amos Milburn, Louis Jordan, Pine Top Smith and other jump blues and boogie-woogie giants. Unlike many recordings advertised as blues these days, Jumpin' & Boppin' really is blues, offering up the pleasures of the authentic voice.

It's also blues of a particularly joyous stripe, and if you're listening, you don't need a title like "Jumpin' & Boppin' with Joy" to figure that out. The one non-Wayne composition, though, is "You Don't Know Me," a classic ode to broken love, written by the legendary country songsmith Cindy Walker (who had an often-demonstrated way with melodies) and made famous by both Eddy Arnold and Ray Charles. Like most enduring songs it's harder to sing right than it looks at first blush. Wayne, who goes straight to its complex emotional core, delivers a memorable performance.

Backed by a superior band whose members include guitarist Duke Robillard and drummer Joey DiMarco, Wayne works his way through a dozen self-composed tunes characterized by solid writing chops and a wonderful wit, perhaps most in evidence in the rueful "Bankrupted Blues" and "Blackmail Blues." Much of the material, however, focuses on raucous good times.

I am especially taken, and not just because I favor railroad songs in principle, with the Chuck Berry-ish "Look Out! There's a Train Coming." And any church that would hand over the instrumental "Boogie to Gloryland" to the keyboard player would be a lot more fun to attend than any church I've ever visited.

music review by
Jerome Clark

10 September 2016

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