There’s a reason why the best blues musicians from the ’60s and ’70s are still the best blues musicians today: They tend to get better with age.
Texas-based guitarist Smokin’ Joe Kubek is a perfect example. His first album to land on the U.S. Blues chart came when he was in his 40s, and he’s only improved his standing since.
“I’m 54 years old and have been playing since the first grade. I’ve played all my life,” Kubek said. “Things make a little more sense as time goes on. You know what works, what doesn’t work. I’m just a lot more confident ... I’ve found myself a little more than I did in the beginning, and I’m still growing.”
Developing as a musician in the Lone Star State helped feed his desire to get bigger and better, and getting the opportunity to play alongside bigwigs like Freddie King at a young age only made him all the more hungry.
“Texas has got a little edge to it, and there’s also a little friendly competition,” Kubek said. “It’s a big state, and we’ve got a lot of good guitar players here. You got a lot to try and keep up with.”
Kubek’s brand of scorching, rockinfluenced, guitar blues had simmered for several years around the Dallas area before he found an unlikely partner in smooth jazz guitarist Bnois King, who helped light the fire. The similarly sea soned veteran has teamed with Kubek for 14 studio albums — including the recent “Have Blues Will Travel” — and 22 years of touring, and Kubek has never stopped singing his praises.
“He’s an incredible guitarist and great singer. It’s added a lot,” he said. “Bnois does what he feels, always pulling something out of the hat. Even after all these years, he’ll do something different in a solo, and I say, ‘Damn, that’s cool.’ You sort of want to challenge it. It’s not necessarily turning it into a gunfight, but to add on to what he was doing.”
They’ll probably have to bury us out here.
—Smokin’ Joe Kubek
The two continue to up the ante on each other after more than two decades on the road, where the pair spends much of its time. It’s resulted in not only growth, but new friends.
“We’re on the road everywhere, always touring with or without an album out,” Kubek said. “We’ve got a lot of fans who are just friends, and it’s cool to roll into a town to see everybody.”
He doesn’t see that stopping anytime soon.
“They’ll probably have to bury us out here,” he said, laughing. “We’ll always be playing and trying to do better, as long as people still dig it. ... I’ve done it all. I have no gripes.”