Kilborn Alley Blues Band
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Kilborn Alley Blues Band

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From the opening North-Mississippi chords and boogie beat of “I’m Spent,” the first track of The Kilborn Alley Blues Band’s release Tear Chicago Down, you know you’re in for some deep blues. That’s a sign of a good CD right there—that the opener is full of energy and great musicianship. Another plus: Most of the twelve cuts feature a Chicago blues feel that sounds so familiar that it’s hard to believe every single song was written by the Kilborn Alley Blues Band.

According to James Walker in the liner notes, “In the tradition of the Chicago blues band created by Muddy Waters, the emphasis in each song is on the ensemble” rather than guitar pyrotechnics or drawn-out harp solos. Producer Nick Moss notes that the best thing about Kilborn Alley is “They have this great feel when they play together. In the blues world it is actually a compliment when someone says you have an ‘ignorant’ sound. These guys have a real ignorant, authentic sound. They sound like the old records when they play.” That’s an accurate assessment of what Tear Chicago Down is all about.

Combining their efforts in the band are Andrew Duncanson on guitar and vocals, Josh Stimmel—guitar, Joe Asselin playing harmonica, Chris Breen on bass, and Ed O’Hara on drums. Nick Moss contributes guitar on a few cuts, and Gerry Hundt plays organ on four tracks. The title track, a funk number, includes Abraham Johnson on second vocal and Dave Fauble on sax.

Fortunately for us listeners, the promise of the opening cut is fulfilled on the rest of the album. “Fire with Fire” is reminiscent of the Thunderbirds; my favorite song, “Crazier Things,” sounds as though Muddy himself was in the studio supervising.

“Come Home Soon” is a mixture of southern rock and soul, where Duncanson’s vocals remind me of a rawer-voiced Van Morrison channeling Sam Cooke, and “The Weight on You” takes us down to Memphis too. “She Don’t Know” has a West Coast swinging jump to it by way of Chicago.

I wasn’t sure I liked “Redneck in a Soul Band” on first listen—with a harp underpinning and shuffle backbeat, it’s a hybrid of a country ditty crossed with a train song. But the CD ends with an alternate take of the same song, this time done in a Chicago-blues style that had my toes tapping and my blues-o-meter in the red.

This is the second album by the Kilborn Alley Blues Band. Their debut, also on the Blue Bella label, was nominated for a Blues Music Award in 2006. Tear Chicago Down showcases an even tighter band that deserves wide recognition for its ensemble talent and true blues feel. - by Karen McFarland


The highly-anticipated follow-up to The Kilborn Alley Blues Band's 2006 release, "Put It In The Alley," is no less stellar than its predecessor. With "Tear Chicago Down," these purveyors of the "Chicago-style" ensemble blues band have stayed true to that classic sound, even tho there are a few "new directions" taken on this CD.

Consisting of Andrew Duncanson on vocal and guitar, Joe Asselin on harp, Josh Stimmel on guitar, Chris Breen on bass and Ed O'Hara on drums, these guys go by the credo that the whole is indeed more than just the sum of its parts. With Kilborn Alley, it's all about the ensemble, with a definite "team" concept brought to the table. Oh, to be sure, there are killer solos spiced throughout from everyone, but they are always within the structure and context of the songs, all twelve of which are band originals.

Lead vocalist Duncanson sings every song as if that proverbial "hellhound" is on his tail, full of fire-and-brimstone almost unheard of for a relative newcomer on the blues scene. Check out the plaintive "Christmas In County," where Andrew sings of a man who's going to spend the holidays in jail for trying to help a friend. On "Crazier Things," Joe Asselin's harp is augmented by labelmate Gerry Hundt's mandolin in this stop-time barnburner. Also, presented in two forms here, "Redneck In A Soul Band" morphs from a "countrified" version the first time out, featuring plenty of twang, then closes the set in a totally different version, this one full of bite and swagger, and hot enough to be the "last call" number at any neighborhood tavern! Our favorite, tho, was a poignant plea to end the war entitled "Come Home Soon." Andrew's soulful lyrics are bathed in a smooth organ groove, again courtesy of the multi-talented Gerry Hundt.

Produced by Nick Moss, who generously adds guitar on several cuts, The Kilborn Alley Blues Band have certainly hit on a winning formula. It's no doubt that these fellows are gonna "Tear Chicago Down," as well as every other town on the blues map!! - Sheryl & Don Crow


It's safe to say that when I was a kid, the idea of sitting down and listening to a blues record never entered my mind. Not very often anyway. Looking back on it now, this seems crazy. I mean, all of that blues-based classic rock I bathed in. Zeppelin. Cream. Bad Company. The Stones. I even went to a Clapton concert that featured Muddy Waters as the warmup act!

Well, sooner or later, the male teen hormone level subsides just enough to allow for a little rational thought. Partially-engaged brain at the ready, the "blues light" began to go on for me after one event: I borrowed a David Bromberg record from my psychology teacher.

Out Of The Blues was a best-of collection that had some interesting angles on the blues. Some tunes were serious ("Suffer To Sing The Blues," "Kansas City"), some a little jokey ("Send Me To The 'Lectric Chair," "Sharon," the latter about a stripper) — all of them made me wonder "How did I not know about this stuff?"

I have the same feeling about the popularity of the genre every time I listen to a great blues record. How can it be that the blues is not more popular? Why doesn't everybody know about this album? What is wrong with you people?!!

Ahem...

The Kilborn Alley Blues Band plays the blues like they mean it. No... like they have no choice in the matter. They make me remember why I became attached to this music in the first place. Based out of Chicago, these guys won't deal you any fake, too-many-notes-to-the-bar blues. No, instead you'll get the soulful vocals of Andrew Duncanson lifted up high by the solid and loose rhythm duo of Chris Breen (bass) and Ed O'Hara (drums), and the inspired harp/guitar pair of Joe Asselin and Josh Stimmel.

This is blues plugged right into the amp: there's no studio trickery, no electronic distractions, no pretense. These guys mean business. From the snakey shuffle of "Lay It Down" to the gutbucket stomp of "Fire With Fire" to slinky "Crazier Things," this is a rootsy blues band that plays with their heart on their sleeve. When they switch gears to visit their more soul-oriented side ("Come Home Soon," "Redneck In A Soul Band," and the title track) you can just soak in the love.

Tear Chicago Down just might be your Out Of The Blues. It has the power to push you over the edge. I can feel it. Ten minutes in and you'll have the urge to buy a pile of Howlin' Wolf, Son Seals, and J.B. Hutto records. That's what happened to me.

You've been warned. - Mark Saleski


The Kilborn Alley Blues Band reminds me why I love the blues in general and Chicago blues in particular. Their sophomore effort, as a follow-up to last year's Put It In The Alley, is called Tear Chicago Down. Both discs will be in my CD player for a long time to come. For the real-deal contemporary Chicago blues experience, get Tear Chicago Down. And Put It In The Alley. Few blues bands have captured my attention like the boys from Kilborn Alley. - Eric Steiner


Contemporary urban blues fans are going to get a ping just from picking this one up as it looks and feels like something Paul Butterfield would have recorded for Paul Rothschild if the two knew each other when Rothschild was still at Prestige. Already getting notice by being nominated for best new artist, the crew delivers hot and heavy with a set that puts them in direct lineage of Muddy Waters and Butterfield. Hot and heavy stuff that just smokes, contemporary urban blues fans will simply love it. - Volume 30/Number 343


The Kilborn Alley Blues Band kills. Picture a deep-dish Chicago version of the Fabulous Thunderbirds back 30 years ago. This young but highly-seasoned quintet makes devastating use of a different rhythm and a different themre in every one of the 11 original songs on their second CD, Tear Chicago Down. Andrew Duncanson - who writes most of it - is a singer with incredible versatility, a brazen edge, and Southern soul. The man is an extraordinary talent. In the up and loose soul nugget, "Come Home Soon," Duncanson's plea is the main attraction. But this is a true, full-fledged band, and they operate as such. Listen as harpist Joe Asseling flits like a pissed off hummingbird around Duncanson and Josh Stimmel's guitars in the broken-down "It's A Pity." In the grand scheme, only a few make it - these guys have to. The city of Chicago and the rest of the blues-loving world will probably make damn sure they do. - HittinTheNote.com


The Kilborn Alley Blues Band creates a great, big sound. This is a full album where every instrument has a full-bodied tone and the members all play together, as a band, a group effort.
Andrew Duncanson has a deep, groovin' vocal style. Joe Asselin gets a large harmonica tone that screams almost as loud as a full horn section. Gerry Hundt enters on organ for a few songs that make the group sound great.

The opening track, "I'm Spent," has a hard boogie beat that drives the song. Asselin uses that big harmonica tone to its fullest here with large, loud screams. "Christmas In County" has a haunting sound accentuated by a nice hi-hat. There is a lurking sound that really puts an eerie spin on the track. They polish the Chicago sound on "Fire With Fire." It has a shinier finish than most Chicago Blues, but keeps to the tradition.

"Come Home Soon" is their plea to bring our soldiers back home. It is a beautiful song that is done with class and taste. Then these guys follow up a song with such sentiment with what other song than "Redneck In A Soul Band." The song is fun and just a goofy number that has a nice mid-tempo beat. The guitar tone on "It's a Pity" has such a clean metallic tone that the solo could just keep going. The harp takes over after the guitar with the same echoing tone; just a great slow Blues number.

Kilborn Alley gets a little soulful on "The Weight On You." This song has a different feel than the rest of the album, but works so well in its place here. The song goes back to the early Sixties sounds. "The Weight" is sandwiched between "Tear Chicago Down" and "Lay it Down," which are both jumpin' numbers. Great song selection on this album.

This album was put together very well. They took their time to piece every part into just the right space and highlight each instrument for just enough time. The balance of vocals and instrumental solos fit perfectly. The group could easily be defined with one word: tight. - Kyle M. Palarino


For their second Blue Bella release, the Kilborn Alley Blues Band (vocalist/guitarist Andrew Duncanson, guitarist Josh Stimmel, harpist Joe Asselin, bassist Chris Breen, and drummer Ed O'Hara) picks up where the group's acclaimed 2006 label debut, Put It In The Alley, left off. Produced and mixed by Nick Moss (who also contributes guitar to three tracks), Tear Chicago Down captures the classic ensemble sound pioneered by Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Little Walter & the Aces with the same ease as its predecessor. On this all-original old-school set, tunes such as the Muddy-style bruiser "I'm Spent," the "Mellow Down Easy" soundalike "Lay It Down," and slow burners "Chrismas in County" (as in the county jail) and "It's A Pity" reflect the influence of the masters. But the guys in Kilborn Alley aren't myopic revivalists, as demonstrated by "Come Home Soon," a yearning soul ballad about the war in Iraq, an effervescent stroller called "The Weight On You," and the funky title track (a vocal duet with Abraham Johnson that's augmented by labelmate Gerry Hundt's organ and Dave Fauble's sax. For an even bigger change of pace, the tongue-in-cheek rockabilly raver "Redneck in a Soul Band" is reprised as a blues number for the disc's final track.

The stars of the show are Duncanson and Asselin. Duncanson's raspy, rock-ribbed vocals combine Muddy's earthiness with Big Joe Turner's vivacity, and like those late legends, he never overstates his case. Asselin is a master of tone and style who plays everything with commanding vigor, from Sonny Terry-like warbling to Little Walter's blast-furnace wallop. Tear Chicago Down is one of the best traditional blues albums of 2007 and should propel these soulful keepers of the flame to even greater heights. - Thomas J. Cullen III


Discography

Tear Chicago Down (Blue Bella 1010) - 2007
Put It In The Alley (Blue Bella 1007) - 2006

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Bio

Nominated for a Blues Music Award in the category Best New Artist Debut for their 2006 Blue Bella Records release, Put It In The Alley, AND nominated for a Blues Music Award in the category Best Contemporary Blues Album for their 2007 release, Tear Chicago Down, the music of The Kilborn Alley Blues Band has impressed countless critics and fans worldwide.

Andrew Duncanson, Joe Asselin, Chris Breen, Josh Stimmel, and Ed O’Hara are a true band, together of personal volition and sheer joy. They are already hardened players and determined innovators with deep study of the music and with a real feel for the life. The Kilborn Alley Blues Band is not a super-group; they are a true band. It is their band, and their vision.

Chicago Blues matriarch Mary Lane and her husband Jeffrey Labon fell in love with The Kilborn Alley Blues Band the first time they saw them. Mary said, “A lot of people play the blues, but The Kilborn Alley Blues Band makes me feel the blues from the time they get on the bandstand to the time they get down. They make me want to get up there and sing those blues! You meet a lot of people in a lifetime in music, and the guys in Kilborn Alley are the kind I can say I am glad to know. They have that crazy love for blues and stay true to it.”

Nick Moss, album producer and leader of his own highly respected Chicago Blues band, Nick Moss and the Flip Tops, had this to say, “The best thing they have going for them is that they have this great feel when they play together. In the Blues world, it is actually a compliment [in current lingo] when someone says you have an ‘ignorant’ sound. These guys have a real ignorant, authentic sound. They sound like the old records when they play. To me, the most endearing quality about them is that they just play for the love of the music.”

The music here is not guitar-hero, guitar-solo-driven music. In the tradition of the Chicago Blues band created by Muddy Waters, the emphasis in each song is on the ensemble. For The Kilborn Alley Blues Band, whose guitar work from Duncanson and Stimmel has always received critical praise, the point of the act is not the virtuoso solo. Duncanson and the band meld the parts into the whole to transmit that special blues experience.