Kenny Neal’s new release is full of blues and soul music of the highest standard. In fact, “Fly Away” alone is worth the price of admission, with its soaring soul tune with beautiful strings, an incredible lyric about life and its aftermath, stunning guitar, and a vocal that calls to mind the best of Philadelphia soul.
Throughout the disc, Neal is in fine voice and his playing and writing are compact and precise. The swampy rock of “Louisiana Stew” pays homage to his home state. The soul of the title cut is driven by horns, Neal’s jabbing guitar licks, and his soulful voice. His back-in-the-mix/barely audible single-note guitar pops push the song in a manner most guitarists just don’t get. “Blues, Leave Me Alone” is a hard bluesy funk with lots of 9th chords and blasting solos that highlight the lyric, which, given Neal’s recent trials, surely serve as a warning.
There are fine covers here, too. Willie Dixon’s “It Don’t Make Sense You Can’t Make Peace” is timely and done to perfection. Neal even manages to turn in a version of an old warhorse that could easily be mailed in; “Since I Met You Baby” is soulful and full of fine guitar. “Another Man’s Cologne” is the perfect vehicle for his mastery of hard funk. The accusatory lyric is matched by the nasty solo guitar work and the biting vocal. While Neal’s always been one of his generation’s finest bluesmen, Let Life Flow helps push him into the upper echelon of the genre. His maturity, mastery of the music, and sheer determination show it, making this one of 2008′s best – so far.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jul. ’08 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.