Kenny Neal is pleased to announce that he has inked a record deal with indie blues giant Ruf Records. The president of the label, Thomas Ruf, has stated, “Kenny is a unique talent, whose accomplishments are incomparable. We are thrilled to have him on the label.” Kenny’s new self-produced album, Straight from the Heart, due out May 6th, was recorded in his studio and mixed at Royal Studios in Memphis with engineer Boo Mitchell.
One of the most vital modern proponents of Baton Rouge swamp blues, Kenny Neal is a second-generation southern Louisiana bluesman who is mindful of the region’s venerable blues tradition and imaginative enough to steer it in new directions.
Neal was born on October 14, 1957, in New Orleans. His dad, harpist Raful Neal, was a Baton Rouge blues mainstay whose pals included Buddy Guy and Slim Harpo (the latter gave three-year-old Kenny his first harmonica.) At age 13, Neal was playing in his father’s band, and at 17, he landed a job playing bass for Buddy Guy.
The guitarist recruited some of his talented siblings to form the Neal Brothers Blues Band up in Toronto (brother Noel later played bass behind James Cotton.) In 1987, Kenny Neal cut his debut LP for Florida producer Bob Greenlee, an updated swamp feast initially released by Kingsnake Records as Bio on the Bayou. Alligator Records signed Neal the following year and reissued the debut under Big News from Baton Rouge!!
Neal’s sizzling guitar work, sturdy harp, and gravelly, aged-beyond-his-years vocals served him well, and he cut four albums for Alligator Records between 1989 and 1994. An acclaimed 1991 stint on Broadway in a production of Mule Bone found him performing acoustic versions of Langston Hughes’ poetry set to music by Taj Mahal.
In 1998, Neal moved from Alligator to Telarc Records, releasing three albums for the label: Blues Fallin’ Down Like Rain (1998), What You Got (2000), and One Step Closer (2001.) In the new millennium, Neal recorded sets for a variety of independent labels, including Easy Meeting (2003,) and Double Take (2004,) a one-shot return to Alligator,) and A Tribute to Slim Harpo and Raful Neal (2005.) A couple of Blind Pig releases followed, Let Life Flow (2008) and Hooked on Your Love (2010).
Kenny’s 2016 release, Bloodline, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album and also won two BMAs (Blues Music Awards); one for Best Contemporary Blues Album and the other for Best Contemporary Male Blues Artist.
In December, Kenny will tour with The B.B. King Experience featuring Claudette King.
The B.B.King Experience
featuring Kenny Neal & Claudette King
Dec 22—Chicago, IL
Dec 31—Reno, NV
Jun 4—Leeuwarden, Netherlands
Jun 5—Oss, Netherlands
Jun 26—Hampton, VA
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