Texas blues queen Kathy Murray and her band, The Kilowatts return with their fourth album, Premonition Of Love, in a new partnership with Nola Blue Records. The ten original tracks and three inspired covers, mixed and mastered by multi-award-winning Jack Miele, explore the range of blues and roots music that their home of Austin, Texas is famous for. Fellow Nola Blue recording artist, Benny Turner, Freddie King’s younger brother and bass player, makes a special guest appearance on four tracks to help launch their label debut with extra flair.
Kathy wastes no time kicking off the album with the horn infused Boogaloo ‘First Do No Harm,’ and preaches the virtues of peace and love, while her long-time partner Bill “Monster” Jones rips a jagged lead guitar. The title track, ’Premonition Of Love,’ is a burning chunk of Texas Funk inspired by legend of the Lone Star state Freddie King. Turner leads the bump and grind blues for the smoking ‘Beggars Can’t Be Choosers,’ and spars with Kathy on the slinky horn funk ‘Always Fooling Me.’ The dance floor fills up for the jump blues ‘Grow Some,’ featuring great walking bass and honky-tonk piano from Matt Ferrell.
Kathy lays it on thick, pouring out her sex appeal, drawing comparisons to Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker on the Lowell Fulson 1965 classic ‘Black Nights,’ a brassy and sassy feel-good tune despite the sorrowful lyrics, featuring a horn section that moans and wails. The reverb soaked take of Magic Sam’s bone-cutting blues ‘What Have I Done Wrong,’ highlights more hot leads from Jones and showcases the core sound of the Kilowatts. Turner returns along with Kim Field on scorching blues harp for down and dirty, gritty blues ‘Final Verdict.’ Jones dons the accordion for a side trip to the bayou for the joyful Cajun romp, ‘Sugar Bee,’ then drummer Nina Singh delivers the authentic Bo Diddley beat for ‘Answer Yes.’ Piano man Floyd Domino jumps in on the roadhouse blues rocker ‘All These Questions,’ as Kathy plays the part of a women scorned and ready to fight for her man. The Texas-styled shuffle of ‘I Got This’ swings with a dose of boot-scootin’ boogie. Kathy concludes her sermon of empowerment, encouraging us all to embrace the freedom to love deeply and keep our eyes on the prize, on album closer ‘The Bigger Picture,’ an easy-going rhumba that sweetly sails off into the sunset.
Rick J Bowen
With their recent signing to Nola Blue Records and their successful 2017 release of Let’s Do This Thing that was the Austin Blues Society’s entry for Best Self-Produced CD at 2018 IBC, Kathy Murray and her band, the electrifying Kilowatts, reassert their place in the blues pantheon that helps Austin, TX keep its reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World.
This is far from Murray’s first time at the rodeo. For decades she has helped keep a spotlight on the Texas capital’s blues scene. She cut her teeth during the golden era of Austin’s blues and R&B scene in the 1980s and early 90s, sharing the stage with the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and blues godfather W.C. Clark. In addition, she also took her rightful place among a veritable Murderer’s Row of formidable Austin blues women, including Marcia Ball, Lou Ann Barton and Angela Strehli. Along with the Kilowatts, she has shared the stage with headliners of the caliber of Albert Collins, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Albert King, Koko Taylor and others.
“The first night I saw a live band in Austin, I was 16,” Murray told the Austin Chronicle. “David (her brother, guitarist David Murray) was 14 and we snuck into the Armadillo World Headquarters where there was a triple bill of Storm, with Jimmie Vaughan, the Nightcrawlers with Stevie Ray, and Paul Ray & the Cobras. My little teen self was totally blown away!”
Throughout her professional evolution, the blues has been the foundation of Murray’s music and songwriting, but she’s never been just a one-trick pony. “My sound encompasses the influences of all of Texas’ rootsy regional music styles that I’ve been exposed to throughout my life: blues, swamp pop, rock, zydeco, soul, rockabilly and conjunto,” says Murray.
Born to a service family, Murray moved all over the country before her father settled the family in Austin upon his retirement in 1968. At the time, the city was experiencing the first stirrings of what would become a vibrant live music scene. Murray cut her musical teeth on her older sister’s Elvis 45s, later graduating to the blues-tinged country of George Jones and Hank Williams. But it was experiencing the blues in person, at legendary clubs like Antone’s and the Armadillo that was a life-changing experience for Murray. Local talents like Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan and Blues Boy Hubbard and national acts like Freddie King and Muddy Waters found a rabid fan in Murray. At the same time, she took a deep dive into the classic recorded blues canon, devouring records by Magic Sam, Bobby “Blue” Bland, B.B. King, Memphis Minnie and myriad others.
One critic described Murray’s soulful, emphatic vocals as “the love child of Jimmy Reed and Wanda Jackson.” Another noted that her music “oozes Texas’ low-down smooth and sexy blues.” Murray describes herself as “both a big-voiced blues singer and a prolific songwriter with a strong modern voice. I feel I’m taking the blues into the future by writing new songs in the styles that influenced me.” Alluding to contemporaries like Bonnie Raitt and Susan Tedeschi, Murray says, “We all have a foundation in common in our passion for blues music, but we stepped out of the box and incorporated aspects of rock, soul and other styles into our music.”
The new Premonition of Love will join a Kathy & the Kilowatts catalog that also includes Let’s Do This Thing, Relatively Blue and Groovin’ With Big D (dedicated to the late drummer, SRV songwriter and musical mentor, Doyle Bramhall, Sr.). The latter project has a long pedigree, dating back to sessions that Murray, along with longtime musical partner (and husband) Bill “Monster” Jones, cut with Bramhall in the 90s.
2018 sees not only the release of Premonition of Love, but also forthcoming tours of the US, Scandinavia and Spain. Kathy Murray believes, not without justification, that even after a lifetime onstage and on record, the best days for Kathy & the Kilowatts are still ahead.