ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, APRIL 8, 1999
I knew a Smokin’ Joe once. He was a driftin’ country musician who moved into the duplex next door to my party pad on a dead-end street by the railroad tracks in Chilliwack. His name was just Joe at first, but I named him Smokin’ ’cause he liked to pop over, smoke our weed, and mess with my shiny black Strat. He was a pedal-steel player by trade, and a teacher of musical theory, so he taught me some blues scales. He must have been a damn good instructor, ’cause 20 years later, that’s still all I can play.
The last I heard of Smokin’ Joe he was settled down with a wife and kids, selling real estate in the wilds of Manitoba, but I’ll bet he still likes to stretch those strings. Once they christen you Smokin’ you’ve got to live up to the name—just ask Smokin’ Joe Kubek, the fiery blues-rock guitarist from Dallas, Texas. He was named Smokin’ at the age of 17, and two years later, in ’76, he was playing in blues legend Freddie King’s band. King—whom Eric Clapton praised for teaching him “how to make love to a guitar”—died after a Christmas show that same year, but Kubek kept the flame of blustery blues alive, hooking up with singer-guitarist Bnois King to form what Blues Revue calls “the best guitar tandem on the scene today”. From a Tucson, Arizona, hotel room, Kubek outlines the beauty of their long-time musical partnership.
“There is no BS,” he points out, “and we respect each other enough to complement each other. Like when it’s time for Bnois to solo I’ll give him some kind of a nice rhythm to stand on, and he’ll do the same for me. It falls together real easily.”
Kubek and King will bring their band to the Yale next Thursday (April 15), focusing on tunes from their latest CD, Take Your Best Shot. Their sixth release on the Rounder-distributed Bullseye Blues label, it was produced by Jim Gaines, who also helmed Stevie Ray Vaughan’s wonderful In Step. In the liner notes for Take Your Best Shot, another Vaughan connection comes to light; there’s a nod to Stevie’s brother Jimmie for spiritual support and “for turning me on to the barbecued bologna sandwiches”. Kubek explains the culinary aspect of the thank-you. “For a coupla years there, Jimmie was, like, ‘Hey, man, you gotta try this barbecued bologna,’ and then when we were doin’ our album we finally tried it. And it was awesome, you know.”
No, I didn’t know. But if Kubek’s taste in grub is anywhere near as impressive as his taste in music, it might be an idea to toss some bologna on the barbie before heading out for a late-night serving of his smouldering, southern-fried blues-rock. Go ahead, be brave. The flavour of Texas awaits.