In April of 2016, Steve became the first artist to record a full-length studio album at the legendary Mississippi landmark, Club Ebony. A long time in the making, and his first record in 5 years, Steve cut 13 new original tracks. The club, now belonging to the B.B. King Museum, was turned into a recording studio capturing the rich history and vibe of the room and in turn creating inspirational performances on the record. The album, Down At The Liquor Store, was made with the participation of The Kings Men, a group of musicians who backed B.B. King, Elvis Presley and other musical Kings. The combination of Steve's Delta songwriting approach and the band's musical background has created a unique and soulful sound. Down At The Liquor Store is an authentic Delta Soul record.
The new record is accompanied by a full-length feature documentary Something in the Water combining the making of the record with the musical trajectory of The Kings Men and the historical musical influence of the Mississippi Delta on the world music scene.
Back in October of 2015 the director of the B.B. King Museum, Robert Terrell, was in touch with me in regards to Steve performing at the 2016 B.B. King Homecoming Festival. He asked for Steve to co-headline the event with Keb-Mo after seeing Steve headline the 2015 Mississippi Delta Blues & Heritage Festival.
Over a number of conversations, one thing led to another, and at some point, I asked him about recording an album with B.B. King's band members. Robert loved the idea and made the connections. The band loved the songs and now, not only do we have a record and a documentary, the guys are ready to tour the world and support the record. Everyone feels that not only was this meant to be but that it feels like a reunion of brothers that have been apart for far too long.
We brought David Briggs in for the record after a friend got wind of the project. David was Elvis's piano player for many years and has been on over 10,000 Records and produced some of the top grossing records by artists like Willie Nelson and Dean Martin, to Clint Eastwood. David worked with B.B. on a few recording sessions too. Briggs is on so many recordings that chances are you already own a piece of music with him on it. He was a founding member of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. There he had worked with B.B.'s nephew Walter King on some sessions. Playing on this record brought back memories of working with Walter and B.B. King.
Originally, before talking with Robert, we had planned to record the new album at Ground Zero, in Clarksdale. The significance of The Crossroads was strong as this record is in many ways a crossroads for Steve and to a degree everyone involved. There were family ties too, Steve's cousin's BBQ sits right at the crossroads of Highway 49 and 61, and Steve's mom grew up above a grocery store a block away on Highway 61.
After a combination of Ground Zero not being available for the dates we wanted and Robert telling me this record needed to be made at Club Ebony, we turned Club Ebony into a full blown recording studio. We couldn't have been more satisfied with our decision. (Was it just a coincidence that Steve years prior had released a record with the title track name Indianola, the town in which Club Ebony resides?) We used all vintage gear for the sessions. The gear and the players coupled with the live vibe of the club have contributed to making a record that I believe melds old sounds with new energy. Steve refers to it as a "beautiful train wreck of styles". With 13 songs recorded in 5 days, we pushed everyone to be highly creative and efficient. The result is what you hear and what I believe to be an authentic and organic record filled with great songs, real emotions, and great musical performances.
Steve Azar & The Kings Men are:
Steve Azar - Vocals & Guitar
Jason Young - Percussion & Vocals
Regi Richards - Bass
Walter King - Saxophone & Flute
Herman Jackson - Drums
Little Ray Neal - Guitar
David Briggs - Keys
Dr. Alphonso Sanders - Saxophone & Trumpet
Jimmie Lee Jr. - Keys