Canadian ball-of-fire beacon of the blues scene Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne is set to add to his stack of multi-award-winning albums with the release of Go, Just Do It! — available June 12, 2020 via Stony Plain Records.
Fans of his internationally sold-out shows know what they’re in for: smooth, robust piano and cool, soulful vocals injected into a cannon that blasts quite the sonic sensation. With Wayne, it’s about preparing for a multi-faceted ride, as the musical terrain can shift just as quickly as the lyrical inspiration.
I’m not looking for a different path. I love that jump blues and boogie-woogie. That’s where my heart is at. I’m just trying to keep that style alive. That’s classic stuff, and I’m at that classic age so it all works out.
The 75-year-old Wayne was inducted into the Boogie Woogie Piano Hall of Fame in Cincinnati, and also lines his shelf with seven Maple Blues Awards, a JUNO Award, three Living Blues Magazine Keyboard Awards, and more.
If his critically-acclaimed 11-album catalogue resembles a swirling, savory pot of musical gumbo, richly layered with flavors of Ray Charles and Duke Ellington, to ingredients of gospel, jazz, Latin, R&B, soul, and dashes of bebop and swing for good measure, Go, Just Do It! hits the table as his spiciest serving yet.
The title track comes up first, bring the funk straight out of the gate. It’s high energy and a great opener. “You Did a Number on Me,” follows with an early 50’s vibe showcasing how the jump blues morphed into rock n’ roll in places like Memphis and New Orleans. The energy stays up with “Sittin’ in My Rockin’ Chair,” proving that even in his mid-70s, Wayne can keep up with the Joneses, and the Wainwrights, and the Katzes.
Guests on the record garnish the album with finesse. GRAMMY Award-winner Diane Schuur helps create a show-stopping duet in “You’re In For A Big Surprise.” The Percy Mayfield classic is the first time the album slows down, and it’s a refreshing breath. Wayne’s son SeQuel — Cory Spruell — infuses a rap cadence and a fresh verse into a cover of Mayfield’s “Don’t Want To Be President.” The only other cover on Go, Just Do It! is “They Call Me the Breeze,” a decidedly more rootsy version than the one Lynyrd Skynyrd made famous.
Former B.B. King bassist Russell Jackson, powerhouse horn players Jerry Cook and Vince Maie (both mainstays with Powder Blues, Colin James, and more), plus Boogie Patrol guitarist Yuji Ihara, JUNO Award-winning former Parachute Club-er Juli Masi, award-winning Montreal vocalist Dawn Tyler Watson, and Incognito Band and harp ace Sherman “Tank” Doucette all add to the musical triumph.
The 10 original tracks from Wayne have, for the most part, that jump blues feel that just rocks our socks. One of our favorites on this offering is “T & P Train 400.” Much like on Victor Wainwright’s latest offering, Wayne makes the train talk and we can’t get enough.
I was playing the T-Bone Walker Blues Festival in Longview, Texas a few years ago and we drove down to Marshall, Texas to see the train museum. Those trains carried so much history, musical or otherwise.
An American expat by way of Spokane, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New Orleans, Wayne long credits Canada for partly shaping him into the artist he is today. “I didn’t know what I was in store for except that the people were great,” he recalls of his move decades ago. “My blues career started in Canada, and I think this country really helps people create their art — whether it’s painting, theatre, or music. Why would I leave?”
*Feature image courtesy of Mark Pucci Media