march 2011

kenny wayne
Sartorially resplendent Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne: the electric wardrobe is as dazzling and colorful as the man’s music.

The ‘Blues Boss,’ Electrifying and Edifying

By David McGee

kenny-wayneAN OLD ROCK ON A ROLL
Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne
Stony Plain Records

The only mistake Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne makes on his delightful new album is in the title: if he really wanted to nail down what happens on this long player, then he would have called it You Can’t Sit Down, because from the first joyous, piano-fueled, New Orleans-spiced boogie woogie of “Searching For My Baby” (and yours truly is here to say few musicians have ever made the hunt for the gal of your dreams sound not like a lonely journey but rather an occasion to party) to the stomping, gospel-style instrumental workout on the closing number, a choice instrumental called “Give Thanks” (which by this time you should be doing for having been blessed enough to experience this energizing outing)—an occasion for a spirited, voluble dialogue between piano and organ—it is flat-out hard, if not impossible, to remain in a seated position. Thus An Old Rock On a Roll, truly one of this year’s most joyous musical celebrations and a high-water mark for the Juno award winning keyboard master who as a teenager accompanied Jimmy Reed on a memorable blood-spattered gig (the blood did not belong to Messrs. Wayne or Reed, by the way) and in his time has accompanied the likes of Delaney & Bonnie and the Doobie Brothers both. Having taken his nickname from an Amos Milburn album and spent part of his childhood in the Crescent City, Wayne brings to his own keyboard art the varied influences of Milburn, Fats Domino, Johnny Otis and Bill Doggett, in a jump-rooted style—hence the rhythmic thrust of his playing and its rock ‘n’ roll flavor. Not least of his many virtues is his electric wardrobe, every bit as dazzling and colorful as the music, itself a most edifying treat.

Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne, ‘Searching For My Baby,’ the first tune from his new album, An Old Rock On a Roll

Now be advised that Mr. Wayne, who wrote all 13 numbers here, does know how to tone it down, if only a smidgen. The blues ballad “Heaven Send Me An Angel” finds him in a Percy Mayfield bag—he even sounds like silken-voiced Percy in the choruses—moaning about his lack of female companionship during a particularly rough stretch; but even here the track doesn’t trudge but struts, with Wayne spicing the ambience with his rolling piano figures and ace producer/guitarist Duke Robillard stepping in with some anguished six-string commentary. In a deeper, even bluer groove on “Bring Back the Love,” he shows his flair with a true broken hearted melody on a slow, wrenching chronicle of lost love that has an affecting, moaning ache in the horn support; a moody, downcast piano solo from Wayne; and most of all, Wayne’s own pleading vocal, as soft and lonely in appealing for a second chance as it is remorseful in sheepishly admitting his own mistakes.

Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne, ‘Going Down South,’ from his 2002 album, 88th & Jump Street. Live performance at The Yale in Vancouver.

But make no mistake about Mr. Wayne’s intentions: these introspective moments are an exception to the rule this time out. The women whose absence he laments on the ballads come back to torment him on the steady rolling “Devil Woman”; on the bopping “Fantasy Meets Reality,” with its furiously pumping horn section, Wayne not only takes off on a wild right-hand flight on the 88s, but manages to make a point in the lyrics about struggling through economic hard times and trying to keep your spirits up when the world is crashing around you; “Wild Turkey 101 Proof” sounds like it was inspired by Nat King Cole’s warm, swinging entries from the King Cole Trio days, complete with a laid-back vocal and skittering piano solo from Wayne along with a full-toned, easygoing guitar solo in the Oscar Moore mold courtesy the indubitable Mr. Robillard. Preceding the aforementioned “Give Thanks” instrumental sign-off, Wayne blazes through the appropriately titled “Rocking Boogie Party,” which follows its title’s sentiment and rocks as hard as it boogies behind Wayne’s effusive piano and hearty, shouting vocal. The artist in question is indeed on a roll, as he proves here and elsewhere, but the “old rock” really sounds like he’s getting younger all the time. Cue up this CD and you too might be similarly transported.

Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne’s An Old Rock On A Roll is available at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024