Review: McKinley James – Working Class Blues 


McKinley James – Working Class Blues 

McKinley James – Working Class Blues
Format CD – Vinyl LP – Digital / Label:
Release: 2024

Text: Pascal Wilhelm

This is McKinley James’ second full release after ‘By My Side’ (2019). The EPs ‘Live in Nashville’ and ‘Still Standing’ were released in 2016 and 2021, respectively.

After being a trio for a while, father Jason Smay and son McKinley James have been making a name for themselves in the blues scene as a duo. Coming from a musical family, McKinley was exposed to music early on. After watching and hearing Steve Cropper ripping it up, 10-year-old McKinley knew what he wanted to do, the story goes.

Of course, it helps that you were able to watch your father backing up Los Straitjackets and JD McPherson.

On ‘Working Class Blues,’ father and son present their mix of American rock ‘n roll, amplified soul and raw rhythm ‘n blues. Recorded live in three days in the family barn with only minimal means, the record captures what they do so well: ripping it up!

It is amazing how they manage to create such a full sound with just the two of them. Father Smay advised his son to start singing, playing the guitar only would be limiting him. This also stimulated young McKinley to go into songwriting which he does well, I think.

The songs and lyrics feel authentic, mature, and his singing stands out for such a young man. It is bluesy and soulful at the same time; you sometimes hear a young Dave Gonzalez of The Paladins.

This record presents an all original and eclectic mix of blues, soul and pop, McKinley is a force to reckon with. Let us hope he will inspire young people to start listening to and playing the music that lies at the heart of modern rock and pop. Why not?

01. Movin’
02. Get to My Baby
03. Always on My Mind
04. Just a Little Bit
05. Crazy Over You
06. Leadin’ Me On
07. Call Me Lonesome
08. Stay With You
09. Say Goodbye
10. Wait and See
11. Till It’s Gone