Saturday, February 7, 2015

Blues Blast Magazine Album Review: Benny Jenkins Bloodline – Can’t Take the Blues

Good day!

This CD review was originally published in the November 21, 2013 edition of Blues Blast Magazine. Be sure to check out the rest of the magazine at

Benny Jenkins Bloodline – Can’t Take the Blues

99 Man Records

12 tracks / 42:56

By definition, the blues can be a stone cold bummer, but west coast swing, jump blues and rockabilly always put a smile on my face. Fortunately, a combination of these styles is the brand of blues that Benny Jenkins Bloodline is selling on their new CD, Can’t Take the Blues. This is the stuff they made rock and roll from, you know…

Benny Jenkins grew up on the south side of Chicago, where his brother introduced him to the blues at the tender age of ten. With his trusty harmonica he joined his siblings Alex and Don in the Jenkins Brothers band at the age of 18, and they toured around the US and Canada during the 1970s and 1980s. Benny worked on a few side projects along the way, including the Delta Kings and The Sinners. He has relocated around the United States, from St. Louis to Nashville, and finally back to Illinois.

Benny plays the guitar and harp, as well as providing the vocals for this project. He is joined by Todd Gallagher on the double bass, his brother Don Jenkins on drums, and his son Dylan Jenkins on rhythm guitar. This makes the collaboration a family affair, and right from the get-go it is apparent that there is good chemistry in this group.

Can’t Take the Blues is a home-brewed effort, including 12 original tracks written and produced by Benny, with not a cover tune to be found. They kick things off with “Step Back,” a short tune that is radio-friendly and danceable. Benny’s voice is pleasantly gritty, and the driving guitar lines are punctuated by a tasteful solo midway through that shows that he has all the guitar chops that he needs. “Blues Party” has a similar good times vibe, and either one of these songs would be a great soundtrack for your next party.

The title track comes up second, and after a drum intro we get to hear what Jenkins can do with the harmonica. He has tone to die for and works the harp perfectly into this classic tale of a man that lives for the blues. Plenty of comical pictures are painted in this 12-bar blues song, and he also shows off his sense of humor in “Reefer Smokin’ Mama” and “6 Ft. Underground.”

Todd Gallagher throws out a nifty intro to “Hey Mama,” which is not an easy task on the double bass. This song has a sweet vibe with its wailing harmonica and jazzy bass line, and it is all held together by Don Jenkins’ brushes on the drum kit. This is a lovely ode to his mother (who passed on when Benny was 8), and I am sure she is proud of what her sons have done.

Though many musical influences are heard on this disc, Benny does not let the listener forget that he is from the Windy City. “Jumpin’ on Maxwell” celebrates the birthplace of Chicago blues (with very few words) and “Bring Back the Blues to my Radio” bemoans the lack of decent entertainment of the airwaves. This tune calls out some of his favorite artists, all of whom made it through town at one time or another, including the three Kings (BB, Albert and Freddy), Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, and Elmore James. You will not find a better list of blues influences, though he might have better luck find these guys on the air if he subscribes to satellite radio…

The album finishes up with “Mush Mouth,” a minute long freestyle harmonica outro. What a cool way to bring things to an end!

This album is well-recorded and mixed, and flows smoothly from one song to the next. Benny Jenkins Bloodline’s Can’t Take the Blues is a solid effort and they deliver the goods on every track. From the energy they show on this CD, I can only imagine that their live show would be a hoot to see. Check it out for yourself and see what you think!


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