Smokin' Joe Kubek & Bnois King
Smokin' Joe Kubek & Bnois King
Joe Kubek was raised in Irving, Texas, and while still a teenager was playing guitar in the band of the original Texas Cannonball, Freddie King. Kubek went on to forge his aggressive guitar style fronting his own band, and backing many legendary blues artists throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, including Al “TNT” Braggs, Little Joe Blue, and others. Influenced by the hard-rocking blues of the ‘60s and ‘70s, Kubek’s guitar playing smolders with the same fire and intensity that burned in the styles of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Johnny Winter, earning him the well-deserved nickname, “Smokin’ Joe.”
Bnois King is a native of Monroe, Louisiana. His musical influences come from a generation earlier than Kubek’s, with the smoother sounds of T-Bone Walker and B.B. King in evidence, along with some of the soulful and jazzier sounds of the 1950s and ‘60s. He was fronting his own band in the ‘80s when he first met Kubek backstage at someone else’s gig.
Together this unlikely pair forged a musical bond that has not only lasted the test of time, but continued to flourish right up until Joe’s sudden and untimely death in 2015. Kubek’s hard-edged guitar provided the perfect counter-balance for King’s understated, jazz-inflected chops and deep blues vocals. King served to keep their music rooted in tradition, while Kubek stretched out and provided an energy that thrilled audiences over the twenty-plus years of their partnership.
In 2012, Kubek and King signed on with Delta Groove Music to record what was to become the pair’s fourteenth album. “Close to the Bone” marked a bold shift in direction for these two as they proceeded to forgo the comfort and luxury of electricity, literally unplugging their instruments for the duration of the recording session. The results were astonishing and a welcome change of pace, as it allowed their music to breathe and flow, displaying some beautifully subtle interplay that might have been overlooked in another setting. Smart, clever lyrics, toe-tapping grooves and interesting, memorable arrangements add up to one of the strongest and most unique titles in their discography. Of course they didn’t have to go it alone, as they were assisted with a little help from some new and old friends, including fellow label mates Big Pete, Lynwood Slim, Bob Corritore, Randy Chortkoff, Shawn Pittman, Kirk Fletcher, Fred Kaplan, Willie J. Campbell and Jimi Bott, as well as former Red Devils’ guitarist, Paul Size. The album was greeted with reverential praise and even placed #14 on Guitar World’s Top 15 Blues and Roots Rock Albums of 2012!
Following on the heels of this duo's daring unplugged effort, Smokin' Joe Kubek and Bnois King returned to form with a stripped-down set of tough, electrified Texas roadhouse blues. “Road Dog's Life” features an arsenal of mostly original compositions, emphasizing King's own wry, insightful lyrics, along with Kubek's incisive, incendiary guitar, with the exception of only two covers; the Rolling Stones' “Play with Fire” and the Beatles' “Don't Bother Me.” A few special guests help to round out the proceedings, including Fabulous Thunderbirds’ frontman Kim Wilson, Nightcats’ guitarist Kid Andersen, Delta Groove label head Randy Chortkoff, Kansas City bassist Patrick Recob, along with the Mannish Boys' rhythm section consisting of bassist Willie J. Campbell and drummer Jimi Bott.
Smokin’ Joe Kubek died suddenly of a heart attack on Sunday, October 11, 2015 while on tour in Wilmington, North Carolina. He was 58 years old.