King Biscuit Blues Festival - AR
The triple threat swamp boogie master Kenny Neal from Baton Rouge plays the King Biscuit Blues Festival Main Stage Friday, October 7 from 2 to 2:45 p.m. The 2015 Jus’ Blues Bobby Rush Blues Entertainer Award winner comes to the Biscuit on the wings of his 16th CD Bloodlines produced by Tom Hambridge who produced two Grammy-winning Buddy Guy albums, Skin Deep and Living Proof. Bloodlines features “Thank You B. B. King.” The title cut is swamp blues at its best, a funky Dr. John meets Ray Wyllie Hubbard tour de force featuring Kenny’s patented raw harp and lyrics about his large family: “Down in Louisiana where the blood lines run deep/Daddy sings the blues and the blood lines run deep….Mama told me the story how she planted the seed.”
The eldest of 10 children and the son of Louisiana blues man Raful Neal, Kenny Neal was handed his first harmonica by Slim “Scratch My Back” Harpo as a baby to stop him from crying. He toured with his dad at 13 and left home in Baton Rouge to be Buddy Guy’s bass player in 1979 at 18.
In 1991 Kenny played a lead role in Mule Bone, a play by Harlem Renaissance’s brightest writers Langston Hughes and Zora Hurston, with music by blues legend Taj Mahal. For his portrayal Kenny won a Theatre World Award, the oldest award given for a debut theatre performance on or off Broadway. Previous award winners include Whoopie Goldberg, Julie Andrews, and Robert Redford.
Kenny Neal is known for his incendiary stage performances and his improvisational skills. He told King Biscuit journalist Don Wilcock, “I don’t know where it comes from if you want to know the truth, man. It’s just like my head is full of melody, and it just comes to me like that. I could be outside on my Bobcat or on my tractor and the tractor could be rolling and make a certain type of roaring noise, and I’ll start singing to it because I hear a melody. I hear a rhythm.”
Being a road warrior never kept him far from his family. The band he brings to the Biscuit is made up of family. “My mother and my father were both adopted, and we’re the first family tree. So, we got to keep this thing happening.
Trusting in the moment and letting things flow in response to happenstance have propelled Kenny through a stellar career playing festivals around the world. Awards include:
• 2011 Louisiana Music Hall of Fame induction
• 2011 Critic's Poll Living Blues Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album of the Year.
• 2009 Grammy entries for Grammy Nominations in 4 catagories
• Blues Critic Awards 2008 Readers Poll, Blues Album of the Year "Let Life Flow" and Contemporary Blues "Artist of the Year"
• 2005 W.C. Handy Blues Awards "Acoustic Blues Album"
• 2003 Slim Harpo Award in Baton Rouge
• 1999 Grammy Nomination for Tribute to Howlin' Wolf "Best Traditional Blues Album"
• 1994 Theatre World Award "Outstanding New Talent" on Broadway