Red Hot CDs

REVIEW by Willard Manus

Kay Kay Greenwade is a revelation, a new-to-me singer who is a force to be reckoned with on the current blues scene. The Texas-based Kay Kay has just released on TopCat Records her second CD, BIG BAD GIRL. Kay Kay sings twelve original tunes, all of which she co-wrote with different members of her band, the Rays (Bob Trenchard, bass; Steve Lott, guitars & back-up vocals; Dan Ferguson, keyboards; Andy Roman, saxes; Tommy Taylor, drums).

Each of the twelve cuts is distinguished by hard-driving music and Kay Kay's big, strong voice. There's a raw edge to the way she sounds, but there's beauty and warmth as well, which allows her to sing not only funky, down-home numbers like "No Mama's Boys" and "That's the Way It Goes," but love-laments such as "Baby Can You Hear Me?" and "Junk Blues."

The latter song, by the way, deals with a woman who has lost her lover to heroin. It's a very real and moving number, one which expresses the hopelessness we have all felt for someone with a crippling addiction, but also reminds us of the importance of compassion and love.

The song is typical of Kay Kay's writing, which is distinguished by its intelligence and social-consciousness, especially in "Enron Field," which protests the white-collar corruption in our time, the politicians who sell us out to the big-time crooks "who play us all for fools."

There's no justice in Kay Kay's world, just thieves who play by their own rules and get away with it. Not much we can do about it but sing the blues. Which she does, bitterly and memorably.

G. La Beaud's first album ON THE G! is billed--accurately--as "baby-making" music. G. possesses a rich, creamy voice that is ideally suited to sexy and romantic ballads. Born in New Orleans to a musical Creole family, G. has previously written, produced and arranged songs (with his two brothers, Jim and Carey) for the likes of Diane Warren, Buster & Shavoni and Deana Carter. Now G. has emerged from the backup ranks to step into the spotlight as a soloist. Backed by lush arrangements, G. does a star turn on this well-produced CD, on which he sings 16 original songs with heartfelt emotion. This is an r&b record, but a fresh-sounding one, thanks to G.'s use of rap and hip-hop rhythms. What's also refreshing is the positive content of his lyrics, which reject gangsta cliches in favor of an upbeat, anti-drug and -thug view of life. (Ruff Child Entertainment/Louisiana Red Hot Records)

What kind of singer is Johnny Mack? The names of his backup singers are a dead giveaway: Beer Belly Slim and Susie Q. Together with the Ft. Worth-based Mack, they belt out some bonafide Texas blues--the rough, tough, raunchy kind that you might hear at a juke joint or honkytonk bar. Mack, who wrote most of the eleven songs on GAVE MYSELF THE BLUES (Topcat Records), is a terrific blues shouter who sure knows how to get people up on their feet, dancing to an infectious beat.

Whether he's bemoaning a broken romance ("Crosstown Girl") or confessing his many mistakes with women, sometimes because of booze ("Looking For an Angel"), other times because he falls for married women ("Go On to School"), Mack is always honest, direct and convincing. He is also bursting with music, life and joy, especially on such up-tempo, booty-shakin' numbers as "Sugar Bee" (by Eddie Shuler) and "Quit Hounding My Dog!"

Mack's band is every bit as inspired as he is, thanks to such topflight musicians as guitarist James Hinkle, pianist Danny Ross and drummer Gunzy Revino, among others. Together they have turned out the best party record of the year.