A Grammy-winning engineer, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter, and already a veteran of some of Nashville’s most-storied stages, the release of 21-year-old Yates McKendree’s debut album mandates the addition of another accolade – top-shelf purveyor of the blues.
The son of studio owner and longtime Delbert McClinton bandleader Kevin McKendree (who provides piano and organ throughout), the younger McKendree exhibits a guitar prowess that belies his age here, from a faithful reading of the 1956 B.B. King B-side “Ruby Lee” to the minor-key original “Wise,” which evokes the master’s “The Thrill Is Gone.”
Some of the most-satisfying excursions come when McKendree (see interview in this month’s “First Fret”) takes on slow blues; “No Justice” tastefully builds before exploding with furious flurries of notes, and “Please Mr. Doctor” gets a slightly slower tempo – and a wider groove – than Tampa Red’s original. Both simmer with intensity.
“Always a First Time,” an early-’60s hit for New Orleans R&B icon Earl King, injects soul into the proceedings, as does the Guitar Slim ballad “It Hurts to Love Someone Else.” A pair of T-Bone Walker chestnuts – “Papa Ain’t Salty” and the ballad “No Reason” – remain true to their sonic roots. An auspicious debut from a Music City young gun.
This article originally appeared in VG’s February 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.