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Kenny Neal preserves his heroes' music on latest album

of the Oakland Press

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Louisiana’s Kenny Neal was raised in the blues and certainly knows all the big names. He even played bass with Buddy Guy for a time.

But his latest album, “Hooked On Your Love,” is dedicated to less celebrated but equally important figures in his life.

“When people think of the blues, they think of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Howlin’ Wolf — all the great guys who started it,” explains Neal, 52. “A lot of people have a tendency to overlook Bobby Bland, O.V. Wright, Little Milton and Johnnie Taylor, who were great players, too.

“I shared the stage with those guys, and I think I owe it to them to share some of that. So I was trying to think in that vein when I was doing (the album), to preserve it and incorporate it into my own feel and what I do.”

Neal, who also did a turn on Broadway in the early ’90s musical “Mule Bone,” has also explored a variety of styles since he began recording as a solo artist in 1987. And he says time and success, including a pair of Blues Music Awards, have only reinforced his desire to experiment.

“I’m more confident about what I’m doing and the people accepting it,” Neal acknowledges. “I don’t want to branch off too far, but I enjoy twisting it around a little bit each time. I have a following and fans who like my style, and that gives me a little bit more leeway and confidence to try things and not be afraid of losing them.”

Kenny Neal performs Friday, Sept. 10, at Callahan’s Music Hall, 2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. Call 248-858-9508 or visit www.atcallahans.com.

Web Site: www.atcallahans.com

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