“Good is good and bad is bad; I don’t know about anything in between,” says blues master Kenny Neal as he prepares to come east and perform at the “Bucks County Blues Society Picnic” in Morrisville, PA on July 16. “I like blues tight, not sloppy and not loose; blues needs to be played together as a team.”
Raised in Baton Rouge, LA., Neal began playing music at a young age; in large part because he came from a very musically inclined family. “My dad played blues into the late ’60’s; Buddy Guy was his guitarist until he left to play with Muddy Waters in 1958. When I was knee high to a duck I started playing with my dad, I played with Junior Wells and bass with Buddy guy when I was 19 years old; all because of my dad. I played with them until the mid eighties when my own band took off, which coincided with me signing with Alligator Records. My band is made up of my siblings, we don’t fight, we all get along (laughs); we really love each other.”
Saying that Neal has had a colorful life is an understatement. Touring from a young age, a 2011 induction into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, multiple blues awards, Grammy nominations, a Broadway acting stint, 16 CDs, a year sabatical from the blues and more have all shaped the man that he is today. “Music is really powerful,” he stated with conviction. “My 16 discs, it’s been a great run; one of them was a tribute to my father but in the ’90’s I was asked to audition for a part in “Mule Bone,” so I took off to Broadway. I performed in that at Lincoln Center, it was a lot of discipline, a lot of hard work; we were doing eight shows a week. I felt sorry for my understudy, he never got the chance to perform; I was dedicated and I made the stage every night (laughs).”
The “Dedication” of which he speaks is due to an intense passion for his art; something his multi-instrumental talents ooze every time he steps on stage. Be it on stage or in studio, Neal strives to be the very best; so it’s no surprise that he has decided to put out “Bloodline,” his first new collection of songs due to be released on July 22. “Yeah, well, I’ve got this new disc coming out; my first in five years. I didn’t want to release something just for the sake of puttin’ something out, so I took my time. I got Tom Hambridge to produce this one for me and being since he works with Buddy Guy I was familiar with his work; he and I knew what we wanted and we worked very well together. We just released a video for the title track a few weeks ago which you can see on www.kennyneal.net; there’s five generations of family involved in it (laughs).”
When asked what we blues fans can expect at the picnic this Saturday; Neal was non-committal and with a laugh said, “I’ve got three shows on the east coast, I’d love to tell ya’ what was going to happen but I don’t even know what to expect at that show! When your family makes up your band; we never know what’s going to happen.”
Neal has recently returned to his roots by moving back to Louisiana; a move he os very comfortable with. “Yeah, I’m doin’ my thing; I’m all settled in now and really enjoying life. I do enjoy getting out there and I’m looking forward to gettin’ back out to promote the blues. Things are different for me now but I’m definitely havin’ fun and I look forward to whatever the future holds.”
The 34th. Annual Bucks County Blues Society Picnic is being held from 10:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. at Snipes Farm located on West Bridge St. and US Route 1 in Morrisville, PA. Other acts joining Neal are Dave Weld & the imperial Flames, Laura Rain & the Caesars, James Supra Blues Band, Vanessa Collier Blues Band, Brad Vickers & His Vestapolitans and Norman Taylor. Tickets are $40 in advance for adults and $20 for ages four to thirteen. Picnic information can be found at http://www.buckscountybluessociety.org/home.html.