Luther Kent: Luther (Independent)

Luther Kent, Luther, album cover

Blues and soul man Luther Kent hasn’t made a CD in four years, the news on this one is that it includes some of the last sessions by the great producer Wardell Quezergue (who died in fall of 2011). Trouble is that the jumbled CD credits don’t tell you which those are, nor do they say which of the many players (including notables like keyboardist David Torkanowsky, the late drummer Herman “Roscoe” Ernest and the Bonerama horns) play on which tracks. The disc was clearly recorded at different sessions over a few years and it sounds that way; but a little diversity never hurts.

The strongest material is upfront, with “You Are My Sunshine” (likely one of the Quezergue tracks) leading it off. If that title makes you cringe, fear not: There’s no overload of sentiment in this version, a funky strut that downplays the sing-songiness of the original tune. He stays in a funk groove for the two originals that follow: “Blues Don’t Like to Come Out Before Midnight” celebrates the nightclub life; “Gotta Make New Orleans” is about the road home afterward. The latter has a last-verse twist that tells you exactly when the story is happening—“What I’m hearing can’t be the truth, the water is up way past the roof”—but it’s a good song with or without the surprise ending.

Material is largely more familiar on rest of the disc, with two Willie Dixon blues standards and another reworking of a folk song (“Down in the Valley”), ending with Randy Newman’s oft-recorded “Louisiana 1927.” The difference here is that Kent sounds engaged (and positively pissed-off) on the President Coolidge verse, the one that most singers throw away because they’re really thinking about Katrina. That’s the mark of a superior singer, keeping the lyrics in mind at all times.