B.B. King, Spotlight on Lucille

John Morthland

By John Morthland

on 12.28.11 in Reviews

Spotlight On Lucille

B.B. King
Not instantly recognizable as the signature B.B. King sound

Perhaps this compilation of early-’60s instrumentals falls into the “not for everyone” category, but few albums achieve their desired effect the way this one does. B.B. King’s guitar style combines the country blues techniques he learned from his cousin Bukka White with the swinging jazz of Django Reinhardt and the single-string electric soloing of Lonnie Johnson and T-Bone Walker. You can hear that singular fusion coming into its own here; nearly everything he’s done with his ax since the early to mid ’60s has been a refinement and polishing, like continuing to sharpen an arrow until it has the point of pin while retaining its original deadly force. Backed by a blasting horn section that gives a jazz overlay to the music, he hasn’t quite perfected his approach on every track yet. But from the guitar precision of the first four cuts to the relentless swing of “Powerhouse” to the wild abandon of “Just Like a Woman,” it’s difficult to listen and not instantly recognize the signature B.B. King sound.