Koko Taylor Royal Blue

Koko Taylor already reigns as the queen of the blues and Royal Blue can only further extend her rightful kingdom. The 64-year-old sovereign took two years to deliver this disc, but it's well worth the wait. From authoritative tracks like "Save Your Breath" - a tough, blues, funk fest driven by the underexposed genius of long-time Taylor guitarist Criss Johnson - to strong Taylor originals like "Old Woman," she feeds her fiery blast of a voice like kindling to a hungry flame. And the jewels in her crown approach full lustre on her self-penned duet with Keb' Mo', the simply beautiful "The Man Next Door," an acoustic setting that compliments the strength of two exceptional voices sharing a pure Delta moment. Yet too-slick production almost overpowers the rawness of Taylor's talents, and the addition of star power to her court almost undermines her authority. The addition of King (B.B.) to queen on "Blues Hotel" can't save a forgettable track and the odd coupling with upstart Kenny Wayne Shepherd on an almost unrecognisable version of Melissa Etheridge's "Bring Me Some Water" is a questionable choice. Yet, this monarch is one high-energy, all-powerful blues force who has earned her throne, supported by a crack blues band who complement each regal gesture of their queen. (Warner)