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Smokin' Joe Kubek keeps refining his blues

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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The title of Smokin' Joe Kubek and B'Nnois King's new album -- "Fat Man's Shine Parlor" -- prompts a question.

What exactly IS a Fat Man's Shine Parlor?

"Well, y'know, that's a good question," says the 58 Kubek, a Pennsylvania native who was raised in Dallas and has been recording with King since the late 80s. "Back in Dallas there was a Chicken Shack place that was open 'til four in the morning years ago, across the street was a shine parlor, a sign that said Fat Man's shine Parlor, and right next to it was Square Deal Productions and the Harris Moving Company.

"We never did go in. We always wanted to. It was always like, 'What the hell is that?!' I can only assume you go in there and get anything you want, y'know?"

Kubek and King certainly knew what they wanted to do on the album, however. It stays true to the duo's blues and Rhythm & Blues roots, focusing on Kubek's searing guitar work and King's soulful, roadhouse vocals, but Kubek says the duo was careful not to trod the same territory they have on previous releases.

"I'm very much into the roots and very traditional music, but I don't want to try to sound like I was one of those guys," Kubek explains. "I want to take what I know and do my own thing with it, like Muddy (Waters) and (Howlin') Wolf did.

"It changes all the time. The most important thing is that if you're going to try to do some interpretation of the blues, you should know everything you can about it. I love everything from Sunnyland Slim to Big Bill Broonzy, but I don't want to make a record that sounds just like them -- although that would be an honor, too."

One thing he does have in common with those forebears is longevity. The release of "Fat Man's Shine Parlor" coincides with the 30th anniversary of Kubek's first single, "Driving Sideways," which he says "seems like another lifetime" after spending so much time with King.

"It's been a lot of music," Kubek notes, "but we were just kind of thrown into songwriting when we first started doing this. Neither one of us were songwriters; it was like, 'Hey, man, you want to get a record deal? You want to do this? You want to do that? You better write some stuff,' so we decided to better ourselves at it.

"We're more musicians that focused on the playing aspect of it, but if you want to get out there then you better record, man. And they better be your own songs. It's like you better grow -- or go. So we grew."

Smokin' Joe Kubek featuring B'Nois King

8 p.m. Sunday, April 19.

Callahan's Music Hall, 2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills.

Tickets are $25 and $20.

Call 248-858-9508 or visit www.atcallahans.com.

Web Site: www.atcallahans.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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