Blues Music Magazine January 2019
Kathy and the Kilowatts / Premonition of Love / Nola Blue Records 005
Austin veteran Kathy Murray has released what's sure to be one of the best roadhouse albums of the year. Sounding a bit like Maria Muldaur, Murray leads a crack band through an album of mostly originals that leans heavily on nearly every different shade of Blues and R&B, but also mixes in Cajun (a swampy cover of Cleveland Crochet's "Sugar Bee") and other roots music. Major props to killer guitarist AND producer Bill "Monster" Jones. I can't imagine anyone reading "Blue Suede News" who wouldn't like this album.
Kathy and the Kilowatts - Premonition of Love
Austin is the music capital of Texas, and Kathy Murray is a wonderful representative for the blues in this fine city. Kathy got to experience the heyday of the blues scene there while collecting albums from blues masters and learning everything possible from them. As she started performing, Kathy got to share the stage with true blues heroes such as Koko Taylor, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Albert Collins, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Albert King, and W.C. Clark. Over the decades she has released a number of very good albums, and recently signed with Nola Blue Records.
Kathy fronts the Kilowatts, and her right hand man in this group is guitarist Bill “Monster” Jones, who also happens to be her husband. The band’s latest Nola Blue Records release is Premonition of Love, which was recorded by Jack Miele at Music Shed Studios in New Orleans, and engineered by Jeff Botta at Single Pitch Studios in Austin. Quite a crew showed up to help out in the studio, including Kathy’s label mate, Benny Turner, who laid down some of the bass tracks. Other contributors were Dylan Cavaliere and Jeff Botta on bass, Richard Ross and Nina Singh with drums/percussion, Floyd Domino and Matt Farrell on the piano, and the horns of Dan Torosian and Eric Johnson.
Premonition of Love has thirteen tracks, most of which were written by Kathy, and she put a lot of thought and quick wit into them. A fine example is the opener, “First Do No Harm,” which is the first song I’ve ever heard that namedrops Hippocrates. This tune features Kathy’s sultry voice over Botta’s fat bass line, fun leads from Jones, and the well-arranged horn accompaniment. After this, the songs cover an assortment of blues genres that can be heard in the lands between Austin and New Orleans.
The title track is a fat slice of Freddy King-inspired blues with a touch of funk, and Kathy’s voice has an amazing growl as she describes her “Premonition of Love.” There is an Otis Rush feel to “Beggars Can't be Choosy,” which includes a return of the horns, sharp guitar licks from Jones, and tight bass from Benny Turner. Continuing to draw from the masters, Kathy added a Bo Diddley beat to “Answer Yes,” which has cool interludes with just the bass, drums, and vocals; this instrumentation provides a subtle contrast to some of the more complicated tracks on the album.
There is also some rockabilly to be found here, and “Grow Some” has wonderful piano from Matt Farrell to accompany Kathy’s sexy voice. “I Got This” is a great example of a Texas shuffle that includes a cool piano solo from Floyd Domino. And Kathy hoots up a storm in “Always Fooling Me,” a guitar and horn-driven funky soul song. There is a little something here for anyone that likes the blues!
Kathy and the Kilowatts also run down three neat cover tunes that fit well into this set. One of these is “Black Nights,” a 1960 Lowell Fulson tune that was written by Fats Washington and is presented as a slow-grinding blues tune. There is also a modernized funky re-do of “What Have I Done Wrong,” a 1968 song from Magic Sam. And there is even a little bayou magic thrown in with Cleveland Crochet’s “Sugar Bee,” which in 1960 was the first Cajun song to crack the Billboard Top 100. Jones shows versatility here as he sets the mood with his squeezebox, and Kathy’s vocals have a cool distortion effect added in to help make this song her own.
Kathy Murray and the Kilowatts put together a fine album with Premonition of Love, and its thirteen solid tracks each have a satisfying mix of vintage and traditional blues themes. The songs are playful and sexy, and you can check out some samples of the bands’ music at their website so you can get a better feel for where they are coming from. Also, if you are going to be in Austin be sure look over the band’s list of shows as there are a few coming up before the end of the year!
Bentley's Bandstand: July 2018
Kathy and the Kilowatts, Premonition of Love
Since moving to Austin 50 years ago with her family, Kathy Murray joined up with the blues crew there on day one. Drawn to local players then like Jimmie Vaughan, Stevie Vaughan, Denny Freeman, and Bill Campbell, it wasn't long before Murray got a guitar and jumped in. The wonder of her quest is that she has remained with a low-down sound that takes aim at the center of the heart and stays there. She's won various awards in past years, but never takes her eye off the blues. Murray sings like her life depends on it, and keeps influences like Otis Rush, Magic Sam, and Freddie King up close and personal while carving out her own style. Guitarist and co-producer Bill "Monster" Jones keeps the axe fires burning way hot, and matches Murray's vocals with an always-bluesy edge. Wonder of wonders, Kathy Murray's songs grasp a modernity that's often lacking in the blues today without ever trying too hard to be current. They capture a woman's modern world that makes it obvious what the singer has gone through. No small feat in current life. As always, the blues is there to turn sadness into gladness as best as possible, and Kathy and Kilowatts turn that trick with soul and salvation. These could be the songs to turn a bigger spotlight on Ms. Murray, with plenty of Kilowatts to make them bad and nationwide. Blues to use.
Kathy & the Kilowatts are the kind of band that likely kills it in concert. At least that's the impression they offer on their fourth CD, the intriguingly titled "Premonition of Love." Flush with both frenzy and finesse, it provides grit and a groove. Kathy and company have an inherent feel for authenticity, and though this Austin-based band make it all seem effortless, they can't be confined to one specific genre, even though they're clearly rooted in the blues. The music makes their main intent clear - to connect with their audience and put the essential emotion across.
That ability is drawn from experience. Singer Kathy Murray played a pivotal role in the Texas blues music scene throughout the '80s and '90s, sharing stages with the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Marcia Ball, Albert Collins, Albert King, Koko Taylor, and Lou Ann Barton, to name a few. If she hasn't achieved the ready recognition of those aforementioned contemporaries, the new album suggests that appreciation ought not be long in coming. Kathy's confidence is never in doubt, whether reflected in the blustery swagger of "Beggars Can'r Be Choosers", the surge and sass that drives "Always Fooling Me", the insistent shuffle of the ever effusive "Grow Some" or the relentlessly rollicking "Sugar Bee", the latter one of four covers included in this 13-song set.
Even when the band slows the pace and digs deep into the searing soul of Lowell Fulson's classic "Black Nights", they show how well suited they are to purveying a stoic sound that resonates with power and finesse. The Bo Diddley beat of "Answer Yes" and the solid strut of "Final Verdict" also attest to their verve and versatility.
It's evident then that the original premise rings true. Translating the electricity of live performance to a studio situation is no easy task, but Kathy & the Kilowatts lose nothing in the translation. The electricity is, as their handle implies, fully charged from their initial impulse.
- Lee Zimmerman
Kathy Murray is certainly no stranger to the blues, moving to Austin with her family in 1968. Before long she was an integral part of that thriving Blues scene, sharing the stage with the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and more. More than simply a fan, Murray became a part of that scene, soaking up the blues...music, traditions, history and lifestyle, learning directly from the legends. She also absorbed the other sounds from the world around her, from the blues influenced country of Hank Williams to zydeco, soul, rockabilly and more. All of these influences are heard in Premonitions of Love, whether on the surface or in the steamy undertones. Kathy Murray & the Kilowatts bring a lot to the table, and we, the fans reap the benefits. A powerful songwriter, the language of the blues is second nature to Murray, whether in traditional blues or carried forward into today's world. Of the 13 tunes on the disc, only three are covers...Magic Sam's "What Have I Done Wrong?", "Black Nights" (written by F. Washington) recorded by Lowell Fulson and "Sugar Bee" (written by E. Schuler), a zydeco tune recorded by Cleveland Crochet, the Sir Douglas Quintet and more. These were done with the utmost respect for the originals, while having the Kilowatt twist added. Murray brings a raw sex appeal and major heat, a factor that I am sure would be appreciated by all of the original artists. The originals, songs of love, love gone bad and reconciliation, set to some incredible blues in varied styles. This band is as good as bands get, with Kathy Murray on vocals, Bill "Monster" Jones on guitar, accordion, percussion and more, Benny Turner, Dylan Cavaliere & Jeff Botta on bass, Richard Ross & Nina Singh on drums, Floyd Domino & Matt Farrell on assorted keys, Dan Torosian on sax, Eric Johnson on trumpet and Kim Field on harmonica. One listen will make it clear why Kathy Murray's name is used in the same sentence as those of Marcia Ball, Angela Strehli and Lou Ann Barton in some parts of Texas to this day. This is my idea of the natural progression of the blues. This is a solid blues from start to finish.
- Bill Wilson