New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
History documents that it was Sara Fitzgerald that envisioned turning a building into a nightclub that would present the world's greatest artists. She bought the building, remodeled it, and then presented such acts as Johnny "Guitar
" Watson, Albert Collins, and Lightnin' Hopkins just to name a few and since then it has not stopped. In fact after his second performance on the 30 foot main stage Sara (in photo below) has already added the name of world class bluesman Kenny Neal to her club's illustrious history.
Mr. Neal to say the least knocked the ball way out of the park and I do mean way out of the park. It was KPFT radio personality Mrs. V (Blues on the Move radio show) that first turned me on to Kenny Neal. Her husband had a special birthday party coming up and she had talked Kenny into playing Houston. It would be the showman's first date in Houston
but it would not be his last. He came to Houston
and left loving the large blues community here and vowed to come back and come back he did at one of Houston's most historic nightspots, Fitzgerald's.
On the night of this event as I looked around the room I noticed a roomful of seasoned blues veterans, blues fans that know what's hot and what's not. This told me that Mrs. V was probably right in her assessment of this man's talent. (on the right Mr & Mrs V) The lights dimmed, the opening act warmed up the room, and then the house band laid down some hot numbers of their own. At this point Kenny was introduced and a thunderous applause broke out. I immediately knew I had been missing something. He plugged in
and turned on a room full of blues lovers immediately but something else was at play. In fact in midstream of one of his first songs he walked up to microphone and said I feel something and I got to get it out. You could see the band members watching him closely.
Something was coming that was not scripted. At this point the man went over unplugged his guitar and plugged in a small device that he cradled on his knees. This unique stringed instrument when combined with his sound devices delivered a crisp, clear upper end sound and when the master commanded it to deliver oh brother and sisters did it ever. Soon it became obvious that Kenny Neal wasn't just another talented bluesman but a man full of humility that is comfortable with his God given abilities.
There is a point in life when the artist and his or her music become one which delivers a discernable, noticeable presence on stage that audiences pick up on. If you see a Kenny Neal show you will pick up on what I am sharing right away. So we had this power house of a blues showman in front of us and what does he do? Once again he moves away from his set list and tells the audience that he asked Willie Nelson
if he could record one of his songs.
Willie agreed and on Saturday night when Kenny presented "Funny How Time Slips Away" he owned us. From the stage Mr. Neal commented that you can call it what you want but it's blues and after hearing how he presented it yep he's right. The song is featured on Kenny's BloodLine CD and available on line or through his website. Check it out. When this man comes to your town take in the show - if it's been a while since you witnessed less antics and more craft this is your guy. He carries the nuances of those prior to his lifetime with their cool, relaxed, humble stage presence and yet the man yields an axe that speaks to your soul and you can easily live in the moment with him. That's what the blues is all about after all - shared feelings between the artist and the audience. This man's got it working.