B.B. King, Live in Cook County Jail

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 12.28.11 in Reviews

Live In Cook County Jail

B.B. King
As close as possible to Cash’s Folsom Prison impact

More than a few artists cut live albums behind bars in the wake of Johnny Cash’s galvanizing Folsom Prison triumph, but none came closer than B.B. did to approaching Cash’s impact. If King’s band for the Regal performance simply plowed through the audience, this lean-sounding crew is more like a hot knife effortlessly cutting through butter. The set features some of King’s most expressive and diverse guitar work, especially when he stretches out on the likes of “How Blue Can You Get” (where he injects a little horror into humor without undermining the lyrics) and “Worry, Worry.” “Please Accept My Love” has a sexy, Gulf Coast flavor absent from studio versions. But this take on “The Thrill Is Gone” is the capper; he’s not just sad or angry or disillusioned, he’s contemplating the complexity of the matter and trying to figure out what it all means. This also has more ’50s material than most of his live albums, as if being inside the prison walls has inspired him to philosophically look back in wonder. All this, plus you get to hear the inmates boo the warden when he’s introduced.