Koko is still every bit the earth-shaker she was 20 years ago. I’m sorry to say that I haven’t heard her last couple of releases, so I cannot compare this to them, but it seems like she is showing a little more restraint in all the right places these days. She also seems a little more polished than she did on some of her earlier recordings. This is not to say that she’s calmed down or lost her charm. She certainly hasn’t. She has refined her growl over the years, and she now has a really tight little band that she can confidently play off of without overwhelming them.
I don’t know what album number this is for Koko. I do know that it’s her eighth Alligator release, and it’s as good as any of the other ones that I’ve heard — maybe even better than most. The lineup this go around includes the basic band of Criss Johnson on lead guitar, Dolpha Fowler Jr. on organ, Kenny Hampton on bass, and Kriss T. Johnson Jr. on drums. They are augmented by guest appearances by the legendary Johnnie Johnson, B.B. King, Keb’ Mo, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Highlights include her cover of Melissa Etheridge’s “Bring Me Some Water” and her take on the Ray Charles/Percy Mayfield composition “But on the Other Hand”; however, my personal favorite might be the marvelous, stripped-down “The Man Next Door,” rendered with no more than Koko’s voice aided by Keb’ Mo and his National Steel guitar. A whole album of Koko unplugged would do it for me. This’ll certainly tide me over for now.
Alligator Records, Box 60234, Chicago, IL 60660; http://www.alligator.com