Quick, who wrote "Cold Shot"? Stevie Ray Vaughan, right? Wrong. The now-standard was penned some 30 years ago by Mike Kindred and W.C. Clark. Kindred is a Dallas-bred singer and boogie-woogie master, and on Handstand he rips into a batch of grabby tunes with astonishing skill, combining a precise and powerful left hand with a sweetly melodic right. Kindred shows here why he's a first-call session cat (Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Delbert McClinton, Lightnin' Hopkins, but his playing transcends that label and demonstrates a singular talent that deserves wider attention.
He's a great, growly singer, too. He is supported only by the rock-solid Dexter Walker on drums (you won't miss the bass player), the pair working their way through a diverse collection of Kindred originals. The sole cover, Elmore James' Can't Stop Lovin, is a rocking, New Orleans-flavored workout with enough bottom-end power to light a city; Walker locks with Kindred's bass end so tightly the melody seems almost superfluous. The title tune, a Kindred solo romp, is an overt nod to Professor Longhair, making plain what the rest of the record suggests: a love of the New Orleans piano tradition.
Along with boogie-woogie and blues influences, Kindred brings some straight-ahead jazz and even a few rock touches. You can't go wrong -- drop the needle anywhere (the CD is divided into side one and side two) and you will hit a winner. "If I Still" is a cooker that gains steam as Kindred floats between blues and jazz. "Bankable Boogie" is a showcase for his two-handed chops; like all great boogie-woogie, it teeters as it smokes along, threatening to go off the rails at any moment. It never does, and, as all the great ones do, Kindred makes it sound easy. - Blues Revue
Mike Kindred is a true Texas piano master, displaying one of the strongest and steadiest left hands in the business, with a rolling piano style, equally at home playing either hard-rocking blues or ballads. Mike’s sense of humor and gruff vocals are a worthy addition to any piano or blues tune. “I’ve been playing boogie-woogie all my life, it seems,” comments Kindred. The duo’s songs (Dexter Walker on drums) merge Texas with rock with strong undercurrents of funk and gospel. They contemplate life and death as the grooves roll by. - The New York Times Syndicate
It's such a simple concept: Put an old-pro blues pianist and a well-seasoned drummer together in a studio and let them rip for a day and a night. In this case, the formula works better than a producer could want. Mike Kindred, the West Texas keyboard pounder who wrote the song "Cold Shot," one of the finest compositions covered by the late Stevie Ray Vaughan and an SRV band mate way back when, raises the spirits of Robert Shaw, the Gray Ghost, and Professor Longhair all at once in this rousing exposition of boogie-woogie rhythm 'n' blues, most of them originals, complemented by Dexter Walker's steady, driving beats. With few embellishments other than Kindred's occasional growling vocals, the collaboration is all about basics and how those basics celebrate the joys of piano boogie. Bottom line: Handstand is the best example this side of Fat Possum to neutralize the conventional wisdom that blues is dead and gone. - Harp Magazine
A longtime fixture on the Texas blues scene and co-writer of the Stevie Ray Vaughan smash "Cold Shot," Kindred has an exciting, densely percussive approach well-suited for his parched-throat rasps on the cheating song "Cover Story." - Downbeat
If you're a quart low in the boogie department, Handstand is exactly what the doctor ordered. - Santa Monica Mirror
It is easy to get inside the music on Mike Kindred's debut CD for the rapidly emerging Loudhouse Records, to feel the various, mostly upbeat, moods he creates with a piano and Dexter Walker's support on drums. - Buddy Magazine
Mike Kindred's left hand is a marvelous musical instrument that creates a bluesy bedrock of thunderous swinging riffs. His right hand is special, too, exploring the upper registers of the piano with inventive zeal and refusing to be confined to a single genre. Put them together and the result is Handstand, Kindred's debut for the Austin, Texas based Loudhouse Records. Included are 13 original tunes and one cover performed solo or with the excellent drummer Dexter Walker, and despite the minimalist approach, the music rocks harder than your average band of twenty-something guitar slingers. - MSNBC
Whenever Mike Kindred introduces himself, he need only let his fingers do the talking. The estimable local keyboard player and songwriter has played professionally since his teens in Dallas, but in the seventies, he wrote a little tune called "Cold Shot." Still, what Kindred has done best over the years is tickle the ivories like a boogie-woogie madman. He's done it for Lightnin' Hopkins, Delbert McClinton, James Cotton, Joe Ely, and the Vaughan brothers, just to name-check some of his credentials. - The Austin Chronicle
Once more, because it cannot be emphasized enough, Mike possesses an autonomous left hand (it must have an ID and Ego of its own) that affords his right hand the freedom to explore the remaining keys with a fevered intensity. Can't Stop Lovin shows Kindred's inventive bass lines with Dex, with "Handstand" being the foremost example of Kindred playing solo. I couldn't help picturing myself listening to him in a dark gin mill (with a massive ancient backbar and smoky mirror) drinking draft beer complete with a shot side and a cigar of disputable fragrance. Ahhh, that WAS living!
An album of like creation wouldn't stand up to repeat listening half as well as this one does. Sultry, sleazy, humorous (The Cow's Advice) and even greasy at times. accompanied by a voice that sounds like equal parts gravel, bourbon, and emphysema. Chill out, I mean that in the most flattering and envious way. You are just not born with a Blues voice like that: you live it. Till you earn it. Luckily Loudhouse Records has the balls to offer an artist like Kindred the platform to exhort his Texas sized talent. - Blues Wax
1. Bankable Boogie
2. Cover Story
3. Liz Ann
4. Call Boogie
5. If I Still
6. Pass Me By
7. Main Stem
9. Sleazy Boogie
10. Can't Stop Lovin'
12. The Cow's Advice
14. Midnight Movie
piano and vocals
Produced by Booka Michel
Package design by Matt Eskey
Photography by John Carrico
All songs by Mike Kindred
(Hardcase Music BMI)
except Track 10 by Elmore James and Marshal Sehorn
(Careers Music BMG Publishing BMI)
ABOUT MIKE KINDRED
Mike Kindred is no ordinary blues pianist. Over the past thirty odd years he has penned a blues classic, worked with blues legends Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan, Lou Ann Barton, Lightnin' Hopkins, Big Mama Thornton, James Cotton, Johnny "Clyde" Copeland, Gatemouth Brown and Delbert McClinton. A stint with the incredible Joe Ely band of the early 80's saw him working across North America and Europe sharing stages with the likes of The Rolling Stones, Linda Ronstadt and The Clash. Through it all he has developed and maintained a unique, "personal" style that transcends traditional blues borders by incorporating elements of jazz, gospel and rock.
Buoyed by his father's encouragement to explore his "swing sensibility" while taking classical piano lessons as a youngster, Dallas native Kindred stretched out and discovered the many facets of jazz. He was particularly drawn to the piano of Oscar Peterson and Herbie Nichols, while at the same time listening to John Lee Hooker and Elmore James. And then there was Boogie-Woogie. "I've been playing Boogie-Woogie all my life, it seems", says Kindred. As a teenager he co-founded Krackerjack, a hard rocking blues band that featured the rhythm section of Tommy Shannon and Uncle John Turner . In Austin, that band went through a succession of guitarists including Stevie Ray Vaughan. That association led to Triple Threat with Stevie Ray, Lou Ann Barton and W.C. Clark and co-writing the song that would eventually, as he relates, "be my greatest success, my calling card, the song that has paid my bills for 13 years and made me a homeowner, "Cold Shot"."
After 20 years of being an experienced and in demand sideman, Kindred decided that, "My apprenticeship was over and it was time to do what I do best." The band Shakedown followed, with limited success, followed by a series of duos. Then the business side of the music scene intervened. "It's hard to keep a band together, keep the players happy and keep the jobs coming in. The economics of the scene in Austin are such that everyone is a free agent; they go where the money is." 1999 and 2000 saw Kindred working primarily as a hired gun in the studio where a producer who heard him warming up one day encouraged him to "record that stuff." Which is where Loudhouse Records enters the scene. Producer and label owner Booka Michel took on the project of recording an all-piano record with Mike Kindred and a drummer. "Booka has an eclectic enough label that he figured an album like this would work", said Kindred, "and he introduced me to a killer drummer in Dexter Walker."
The result is an album that showcases 14 original songs and the incredibly steady and strong left hand of Mike Kindred. It's there, holding down the bottom end along with Walkers' kit, while Kindred's left hand explores jazz, rock and a touch of New Orleans for good measure. "Because we're not working in a traditional trio format with a bass player, my left hand always has to be there, playing the bass line with the drummer", Kindred explains, "but that leaves my right hand free to showcase my personal style of blues that has jazz strains and other touches".
The recording itself was "not an easy session", according to Kindred. "We rehearsed it and went into the studio (Cedar Creek Studios in Austin) with the expressed intention to strictly let people hear what happens when a piano player and a drummer sit down. There were no overdubs, save for a couple of vocals." As such, the recording has a spontaneity and live feel that invites the listener right into the studio for that session.
However, it's not easy recording an album of blues piano that has the dynamics to keep you listening time after time. Kindred has accomplished just that, with rolling barrelhouse, boogie, down 'n' dirty blues, jazz chording and a touch of blues-rock. No easy feat, but then Mike Kindred has over 3 decades of first hand experience with audiences and musicians to draw from.
With the release of his Loudhouse Records debut "Handstand" Mike Kindred has served notice that he's ready to share his personal musical vision with the world at large. Open your ears and take it in.
Cam Hayden, Producer
Labatts Edmonton Blues Festival,
and CKUA Radio Network, Alberta, Canada