Music — Koko Taylor - Royal Blue

Koko Taylor

Royal Blue

Alligator Records


By Dan Szczesny

Do not mess with Koko Taylor. That’s the lesson to be learned from Royal Blue, a powerful Chicago-style blues album overflowing with some of the industry’s deepest talent. It’s been 11 years since Taylor’s last album, the superb Force of Nature, and still (as on that disk) when Koko calls, the musicians come. Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Johnnie Johnson, Ken Saydak and even the father of all things blue, B.B. King, come calling on Ms. Taylor for her latest effort. And she makes them all work hard.

Shepherd and Taylor rip through a raw, devestating version of “Bring Me Some Water” that Melissa Etheridge wishes she could have produced. Taylor upstarts the great Keb’ Mo’ himself on a delta blues acoustic version of “The Man Next Door.” And even B.B. seems a little put out, trying to keep up with Taylor on the classic “Blues Hotel.”

But in the end, a Koko Taylor album is about Koko Taylor. And there are moments on this record when Taylor’s voice seems strained; short of the explosive breath of past albums. But she compensates mostly with a low growl or a raspy punch that more than makes up for it. The woman is pushing 70 and she is still a force of nature.

And she doesn’t shy away from her age, either. Like any good blues diva, she makes music that’s raunchy, bawdy and full of love, loss, cheaten’ and sex. One of the strongest songs on the album is a Taylor original called “Old Woman.” Backed by the frenetic tenor sax of Mark Colby, Taylor sings, “I’m an old woman built on a young woman’s frame / All I need is five minutes and I’ll take any woman’s man.” Considering the men she surrounded herself with on Royal Blue, she’s not kidding.

*** 1/2

Dan J. Szczesny

Koko Taylor will perform Friday, Sept. 10 at the Palace Theatre. Tickets are $35. The show starts at 8 p.m. For more information, call 668-5588 or go to

—Dan Szczesny


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