Legendary bluesman’s new set sits alongside Cash’s American Recordings as autumnal landmark
“Times have changed so much, music has changed so much, but those old records still sound pretty good,” said B.B. King recently, referring to the blues standards—including Howlin’ Wolf’s “How Many More Years,” Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” and John Lee Hooker’s “Blues Before Sunrise”—that he revisits on his captivating new album One Kind Favor. Elegiac by intent, the record is awash in poignancy, radiating from the deeply felt guitar and vocal performances of the 83-year-old King and his supporting band (anchored by drummer Jim Keltner, bassist Nathan East and pianist Dr. John) and from the carefully chosen material. But just as importantly, it boasts a breathtaking immediacy, which isn’t surprising considering the strictly live-off-the-floor methodology of producer T Bone Burnett and his secret weapon, brilliant engineer/mixer Mike Piersante, who brought comparable vitality and presence to recent albums by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, John Mellencamp and Brandi Carlile. Burnett specializes in conjuring—and Piersante in capturing—special moments.