There is a fear and intimidation factor I have whenever I stumble upon a CD from a seemingly veteran blues artist and can't immediately place the name. I always feel an imaginary set of disapproving eyes from somewhere on high because it's impossible to experience a century of blues overnight. It takes time to work your way through it but I always feel like I should have heard this all before now.
I felt a bit of relief for not knowing James Kinds when his Love You From The Top arrived in my mailbox. Blues historian Bill Dahl tells us there are some who'll remember Kinds from his time working Chicago's West Side in the '70s. He was once hailed as the city's next promising voice but his career never quite caught fire. Kinds left Chicago and worked a stint in Los Angeles with Ike Turner and that didn't jumpstart things either. He relocated to Dubuque, Iowa for family reasons and continued to write and play, culminating in his first nationally released album.
Love You From The Top is a 15-song collection of Kinds originals. He writes sturdy, compact compositions with efficient guitar leads. The rhythm section of Claude Thomas and Anthony Dotson lays solid foundations with Dotson's bass often walking that beat with an aggressive, modern edge.
The 67-year old doesn't just reach into his higher register to sing, he lives there most of the time. He sang with some gospel groups earlier in his career and that influence can be heard in his vocals. If you like your blues with a little of that R&B flavor and a hint of soul, this is your kind of album. The title track, "If You Need It," and "I Got A Woman" establish a template from which Kinds rarely deviates. One exception is the soulful ballad "Take A Look At Yourself," and it is excellent.
James Kinds had to take the long road to arrive at this moment and like his labelmate Jimmy Burns, good things have come to an artist who had to wait.