Monday, July 8, 2013

Kenny Lavitz Flipside of the Blues Album Review


This CD review was originally published in the January 10, 2013 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Kenny Lavitz – Flipside of the Blues

Self Release

13 tracks / 46:04

Though the blues originated in the Deep South, these days you will find it coming from pretty much every corner of the globe. Over the last year I have seen a lot of great new music coming out of the Pacific Northwest, and Flipside of the Blues from Kenny Lavitz is no exception.

Kenny Lavitz is a guitarist and singer who has been working out of Portland, Oregon for the past few decades. He is originally from the New York/New Jersey area, and his musical journey has led him through stints in Miami, at the G.I.T. in Los Angeles, and five years of touring with his own band before settling down in PDX. This experience has provided him with a wealth of knowledge, and you can clearly hear his mastery of the guitar. And, of course, his background in latin and jazz always make his music more interesting.

Flipside of the Blues is Kenny’s third CD, and his first since 2005’s Too Many Hats. He wrote all thirteen of the tracks on this disc, and has done a nice job of integrating horn parts into the mix. Chipping in on this effort are Dave Fleishner on keys, John Hughes on bass, and Rudy Battjes on drums and percussion. The respectable horn section consists of Tim Bly, Renato Caranto, Pete Moss, and Paul Mazzio. Battjes was also responsible for recording and mixing, and co-produced the album with Lavitz.

Right from the start, listeners will find that this is a fun record. There is a blues base to most every song here, but the way Lavitz mixes in different styles (and that fabulous horn section) to create a glorious funk really does make this the flipside of the blues -- it is not just a clever title! The first tracks “What You’re Doing” and “Fish Won’t Bite” are delightful in different ways, the first with a hard 2 and 4 beat, the latter with a bar-room piano in the background. “Get a Little Funk” has a wonderfully punchy round bass line and a tight organ part that doubles up with and then plays off of Kenny’s slick guitar work.

Legendary New York City guitarist C Lanzbom appears on two tracks: “Hard Times” and “Get Up.” I am not sure who gets credit for which parts that are being played, but he works well with Kenny, and the end result is hard-core slide work and Hendrix-inspire wah pedal work in these songs. I was surprised to see his name come up on the liner notes, as he is not exactly located next door to Portland.

The lyrics of the songs are thoughtful and run the gamut, and my favorite ones from Flipside of the Blues are found in “On Her Way,” which he dedicates to his daughter. I was expecting a corny ballad, but instead got to hear a lively celebration of the maturing of his daughter – you can certainly hear the pride in his voice.

Kenny gave the horn players a rest and drove out of the funk groove for the last three tracks on the CD. “Turtles, Frogs and Snakes” is a hard rocking Texas boogie that makes me picture early ZZ Top. Greg Sommers lends a sweet harmonica tone on the instrumental “Association,” and this fits in nicely over Lavitz’s jazzy guitar. And the CD wraps up with a two minute track, “Another Another Day,” which is full of rockingly fat delta-style slide guitar. There is a lot more than funk going on here, for sure.

I like Kenny Lavitz’s Flipside of the Blues, and though is not the usual straight-up blues album, I think that blues fans will dig the funky vibe and first-rate musicianship and writing that are found here. Just hearing his guitar work, Hughes’ bass and Battjes’ drums are worth the price of admission, and all the other good stuff found within is icing on the cake. Give it a listen, and see if you agree!


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