If any one artist embodies the blues for millions of music lovers around the world, it’s B. B. King. As of 2005, the year he turned 80, King was as consistent as ever, touring and recording with undiminished power. No blues artist has had such a long and productive career -- King hasn’t left the road for any extended time since he broke onto the scene in 1951 -- and therein lies the potential problem. The man has made so many albums, touching on so many aspects of the blues, that delving into his voluminous catalog poses a daunting challenge even for blues aficionados. Dave McGee’s comprehensive survey of King’s recording career comes straight to the rescue. An ace music journalist with a deep affection for American roots music, McGee not only examines each of King’s albums, he places King’s artistic career in the context of the blues genre as a whole. In other words, you learn everything you ever wanted to know about B.B., while also getting an introduction to the brilliant work of such influential blues figures as Bukka White, Muddy Waters, and T-Bone Walker, as well as R&B greats including Sam Cooke and Ray Charles, among many others.
Eliciting cogent commentary from such important King collaborators as producers Bill Szymczyk and Stewart Levine, McGee focuses on the details of significant recording sessions, providing a fuller picture of King’s artistic methods than we have ever have had before. A fair and astute critic, McGee acknowledges King’s failures as well as his triumphs. (A concluding “buyer’s guide” nails down McGee’s favorites.) Interspersed with King’s own comments, culled from earlier interviews, There Is Always One More Time opens the door to a monumental recording catalog while also sketching an enlightening portrait of a timeless American musical genius. Steve Futterman