Blues Blast Magazine – Times Hard | Album Review – “With a sound that’s halfway between the Holmes Brothers and the Phantom Blues Band, the Kingdom Brothers are a five-piece unit out of St. Louis that simply smoke with a traditional, yet totally modern electric sound.
“Formed by bass player Bob Walther in 2005 in an attempt to provide something different in the music rich shadows of the Gateway Arch, the Kingdoms sound is rooted in Albert King, Muddy Waters and Otis Rush, but infused with a strong dose of the gospel harmonies of the Dixie Hummingbirds and Blind Boys Of Alabama.
“Fronting the group are vocalists Chris Shepherd, who handles rhythm guitar duties, and keyboard player Stan Gill. Ron Roskowske holds down lead and slide guitar responsibilities, and Joe Warmbrodt handles percussion. They’re augmented here (on TIMES HARD) by the Dogtown Horns – Richard Zempel on tenor sax, Kevin Rauscher on trumpet and John Covelli on trombone – and the Kingdom Sisters – a chorus comprised of Pam Camp, Linsey Morgan, Beth Tuttle and Pam Warmbrodt.
“A follow-up to the band’s 2008 release, ‘ Shine A Light’, and partially funded by an Indiegogo campaign, this CD features material that’s original and uplifting as it deals with matters that affect the life of everyone. If you’d been fortunate to visit the new National Blues Museum in St. Louis, this album plays regularly in the background. And the title cut, ‘ Times Hard‘, is featured in the movie ‘ Cronies,’ one of three films produced by Academy Award winning director Spike Lee in 2015.
“The album kicks off with ‘ The Blues Don’t Have To Be Sad,’ a tune that puts into words what every fan of the music knows but outsiders sometimes often can’t comprehend. It’s a sprightly shuffle fueled by Gill and accented with a catchy guitar hook. ‘ It Won’t Be Me‘ features Roskowske’s stellar picking on a relaxed blues that serves as a response to a lady who’s in search of someone to be her fool.
“The feel continues for ‘ Not Gonna Worry,’ about life’s pitfalls, before things heat up with the cautionary fast shuffle, ‘ Reap What You Sow.’ The slow blues ‘ Little Things’ offers an aural break as it delivers a bittersweet apology for the many small lies in a relationship that add up to hurt like hell. The horns come to the fore in ‘ Come Back,’ a suggestion to return to your first love when things were good.
“‘ Better Man’ is the realization of someone who finally understands he could have done much more with his life, while ‘ Doin’ What You Want’ is a slow, steady funk that asks why a woman’s treating her man so bad. The rocker ‘ All I Want’ sings the virtue of not being a one-night stand before Roskowske’s slide guitar burns for ‘ Tell The World,’ offers praise for spiritual lessons from above. The instrumental ‘ Gateway Shuffle’ concludes the set.
“Available from Amazon or other online marketers, TIMES HARD is a warm-feeling toe-tapper from beginning to end. Strongly recommended and hard to put down.”
— December 26, 2016 – Marty Gunther
Contributing Staff Writer
Blues Blast Magazine
KDHX – 88.1 FM Listener Supported Radio, “Independent Music Plays Here” – “When listening to ‘Times Hard,’ the second release from St. Louis’ Kingdom Brothers, it’s hard to believe the band only has one other release to their credit. There’s a deep credibility to their music and approach that leaves both home listening and live audiences deeply satisfied. And though listeners can detect hints of influence ranging from Chicago blues to gospel in the delta, Kingdom Brothers lay claim to their own original sound, blessed with an abundance of soul and positivity. ‘Times Hard’ ranks highly in releases year-to-date, and the live shows are consistently on par to match.”
(I can also throw in that you guys do my absolute favorite cover of “I’d Rather Go Blind.” So good.)
— Gettin’ Down To It with Sean Smothers – Saturdays 5p-7p CT on 88.1FM and kdhx.org
“Kingdom Brothers are known to be one of St. Louis’ top blues bands, and that’s saying a lot in a city so rich in blues talent. A 2015 semi-finalist at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, the combo focuses on spreading hopeful, positive messages all while tackling contemporary themes – yet solidly grounded in the classic blues sounds the band love so dearly. Kingdom Brothers purposely steer clear of the “same old” cover songs during their performances. This band composes much of their own exceptional music – featured on their 2016 release Times Hard, which was recorded by noted engineer/producer/musician Joe McMahan – as the band is gifted with multiple talented songwriters. Rich, earthy vocals? Check. Tasteful dual guitars with plenty of octane in the tank? Indeed. A rock-solid rhythm section that keeps the dance floor full & moving? Right here. Kingdom Brothers have all that and more!”
— East Side Slim of 88.1 KDHX’s Rhythm Highways: blues, soul, rock ‘n’ roll… jazz, swing and everything.
“Kingdom Brothers are five incredibly talented artists coming together as one great blues band full of soul. The music is tight and the vocals and harmonies right on. Their newest release Times Hard is easily one of the finest albums of the year.”
— Doug, The Juke Joint, KDHX Saint Louis
Alligator Records – “My overall impression is that you play and sing with real maturity…a lot of confidence and the right attitude…Solid grooving rhythm section and adept guitar work… There is honesty and directness in the performances as blues should be…Vocals are solid and range from good to quite good (singing blues well is hard)…Good soloing too…You guys know how to be restrained and make the solos tell a story…I found these songs very enjoyable and a nice surprise…Thanks for sharing the good music.”
— Bruce Iglauer
Founder, Alligator Records
“Genuine House Rockin’ Music Since 1971”
BB’s Jazz Blues and Soups – “Kingdom Brothers have brought new life to the St. Louis blues scene. The combined years of musical experience, quality song selection, and crafted original material have rewarded not only them, but the audiences around the country experiencing the music and positive message of Kingdom Brothers. I am a fan of both.”
–John Michael May
Talent Coordinator & Special Events Manager
BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soups
700 South Broadway
St. Louis, MO 63102
St. Louis Blues Society BluesLetter
(Cover – Nov/Dec 2014 Number 71)
Belleville Wine and Dine Jazz Fest – “We only feature one blues act at our festival each year and again chose Kingdom Brothers because we had amazing feedback from the audience last year. On a personal note, since I’ve been a jazz and blues fan for over fifty years, I like the fact that they are tight and can play the blues standards as I remember them. For us old-timers, that is important as it brings back sweet memories of those small crowded clubs we visited in years past.”
Wine Dine Jazz 2015
“Musically, this was nothing short of a great album with some blues highlights. The rich soulful vocals, plenty of guitar, piano boogie woogie and prominent bass make it an enjoyable listen. I liked it. In particular ‘Shine A Light‘ was guitar-o-plenty with a solid bass and piano. ‘You Was Wrong‘ is a terrific version of ZZ Hill’s song with killer guitar. ‘Bad Love‘ is a cool, Robert Cray-like song and among my favorites. ‘Blind Man‘ takes us on a blues journey to Chicago with guitar and organ each taking shots at solos. ‘Feel Like Crying‘ tastes like Freddie King with fancy fret work that left my mouth watering for more. The Kingdom Brothers bring together a mix of R&B, Blues and Gospel from their hometown, St. Louis.”
— Peter “Cornbread” Cohen
‘Rootstime’ – Belgium – “This blues band from Saint Louis, is not an ordinary blues band. They use, as it happens, the devil’s music to spread the message. ‘Shine A Light‘. This is real blues. Only their texts indicate the direction of the sky, and then still, outside the title song and the following ‘Testify,’ nowhere can be found an indication on sermons.” (I think this means the CD doesn’t preach at you – SG)
“The lead vocalist is strong and soulful in the compelling title song, which opens the Kingdom Brothers disc. ‘Testify‘ with Chris Shepherd on the vocals shows that he also stands well as vocalist and guitarist. With a sound which sometimes brings Santana to mind, he makes of this song, in a way, a modern-sounding poppy blues song. Stan Gill raises that Santana quality still more. The well-known blues traditional ‘Blind Man‘ gets also an in-depth, modern implementation. Shepherd himself wrote and prayed ‘Bad Love,’ still another demonstration of the Santana inspiration, whereas Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground‘ gives occasion to guitarist Roskowske to demonstrate southern slide guitar. ‘Turn Around‘, a song which was written by several band members, sits also with Southern rock influences.
“‘You Was Wrong‘ by ZZ Hill is based on the version of Freddie King from his Texas Cannonball CD, still one of my favorite blues discs. Chris Shepherd’s ‘Feel Like Crying‘ validates his voice and soul.
“The southern slide guitar of ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine‘ with Wilson’s soulful vocal, reminding you of Terry Evans’ voice, give the song a feel and sound reminding us of Ry Cooder’s best pre-recordings, and without doubt also the best song of this disc.
“The instrumental New Orleans classic, The Meters ‘Cissy Strut‘ gets a real Allman Brothers sound, and concludes Shine A Light of the Kingdom Brothers in more than a convincing manner. You would convert you for less. Hallelujah!”
— Ron (Sept. ’08)
Rootstime – Belgium