SOUL RENEGADE–RIO GRANDE BLUES–SUGAR SHAKIN BOOGALOO–MAKE IT–SOMETIMES–FAR FROM GONE–DETROIT IRON–FINAL SEASON-WHISKEY AND WATER–ANGELS–WANG DANG DOODLE
Ken Valdez was born in Santa Fe, NM, and now resides in Minneapolis. Often referred to as “The Best-Kept Secret In The Blues,” this mighty guitarist, vocalist, and composer has been releasing albums off and on since his well-received 2000 debut, “Approach.” An EP written for his friend and mentor, T-Model Ford, in 2012 gave him the itch to not only get back in the studio, but to hit the road again.
That brings us to his latest release, “Soul Renegade,” eleven cuts that offer up a musical journey that takes you thru all Ken’s influences—from Chicago to the Delta, up thru T-Model’s Hill Country, and back down to his native Southwest. He takes a vivid look thru this material at life, love, and coping on a daily basis.
The set kicks off with the grit and emotion of the title cut, where the defiant “outlaw rides again, stronger than I was before!” A chooglin’ shot of roadhouse boogie blues is “Sugar Shakin’ Boogaloo,” with Chris Duarte on guitar. Two of those looks at love are polar opposites. A cool, Delta-styled intro with country-blues harp from Kevin B. F. Burt and Ken’s guitar lines drive “Make It,” Ken’s promise to a lover to “keep pushing on” no matter what. But, often the best-laid plans go belly up, and “Sometimes you feel like you are on a lonely road to nowhere” and it’s time to throw in the towel. This one features guitar from Eric Gales.
“Detroit Iron” pays a rockin’ tribute to the glory days of “cruisin’ in a Cadillac,” and Ken closes with a snarling take on Koko’s “Wang Dang Doodle,” with Adam Daniel supplying fine keyboard work.
Our favorites were easy, and followed each other in the set as sure as Sunday morning follows Saturday night. “Whiskey And Water” is an ode to Saturday nights spent down at “The Waterin’ Hole,” where everybody knows your name and your credit is always good with the bartender. As it fades, the sureties and sanctifications of Sunday morning sinks in, and Ken gladly gives thanks to his “Angels,” for “one more day above the ground!” Ken’s vocal is strong, and Brant Leeper’s piano is testifyin’ all the way thru!
With “Soul Renegade,” Ken Valdez proves he has sho’ nuff paid his dues. This is a powerful, eclectic set that shows Ken’s talents in multiple genres’, while staying rooted in the blues-rock traditions! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.