B.B. King, Heart & Soul

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 12.28.11 in Reviews

Heart And Soul

B.B. King
The crooner side of King

Unlike some bluesmen, B.B. King always understood and embraced show biz, and for all the grit he could bring to a song he also had — and has — a fair amount of crooner in him. That’s the whole point of this album, and despite the surprise of hearing him make like a late-night, West Coast balladeer, he pulls it off with panache. He can swing (“Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”), he can sigh (“I’ll Survive”) and he can swoon (“I Love You So”). The band is superb, the horn players full of empathy. The piano man gets more of the spotlight than B’s guitar, but that’s okay too; the guy can really drive a sentiment home. The strings rarely get in the way — yes, B.B. sang with strings way before “The Thrill Is Gone” — though the backup singers are hit and miss. If you have any taste for blues balladeers like Charles Brown, give this a try — it’s not for everyone, but until you’ve immersed yourself in this side of King you don’t really know the man and his music.