Big Mike and The R&B Kings are a Chicago funk, blues, and soul band from New Orleans. They take their biggest inspirations from the likes of Big James & The Chicago Playboys, The Kinsey Report, Albert King, Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, and so many more. Making up the band currently is Big Mike on lead vocals and bass, Alex Krahe on guitar, Tajh Derosier on sax and vocals, Oberon Jackson Jr on drums, and Will Rast on the organ.
The band has frequent shows at venues such as the Cubby Bear, Bluebird Lanes, Kingston Mines, and others that are almost always packed. Big Mike says that his debut album, This Song’s For You, is an “eclectic album that encompasses Chicago Rhythm and Blues with elements of soul, and funk, and some rooted reggae. The album takes you on a journey of emotions. It is for everyone and anyone looking to feel something when listening. From love songs to heartbreak to just good old sing-a-long and dance-a-long songs, and great guitar solos. His album has it all.”
“Last Night” is such a great opener because of the immense amount of energy that the listener gets in just the first 30 seconds of the song. There are definitely strong vocal influences of all the great jazz and soul musicians like Stevie Wonder, Buddy Guy, BB King, and many others. “Played a Fool” has a nice 3 beat swing tempo with these soulful rock influences. There are so much strength and passion behind his voice, not only in this song but throughout the entire album.
“Save Some Funk” for Sunday is extremely edgy and energetic and really warrants getting up on your feet and dancing till it’s over! This song also shows just how great of a storyteller Big Mike is in his performances because he really does have a way with words. I appreciated the variety in his themes throughout this album because it kept this album refreshed and alive. The track, “From Time to Time,” had some more rock and funk influences that shone through in the instrumentation and style of the song. As his point of view goes from complacent to almost angry and fed up, the instrumentation mimics that same energy and fire in his voice.
“Dead Man” was a great change of pace and such a soft and emotional song which made it my absolute favorite of the album! Even though the form doesn’t stray from that of the other songs, this song still manages to stand out because of its topic and superb execution by the entire band. There is so much pain and soul poured into the instrumentation that you can feel it from the minute the song starts to its very last note. The tension swells within the instrumental break and leads us back to that softer feeling that we experience in the intro. Just when I thought I couldn’t love this song anymore, the instrumental break and solo completed blew me away!!!
“Blue Print (Beautiful)” had a Reggae spin with some elements of funk with the synth accompaniment. In the chorus of the song, there were some really well-executed scats that brought back those strong jazz influences the band embraces. The song was a great turn-around of emotion from the previous song. It felt so carefree and dreamlike, and I was so appreciative of how active his vocal range was because it created a stronger dynamic for the song. “This Song’s for You” had a nice mix of those high energy vibes with those softer elements of swing and accompaniment. The harmonies placed on the accented phrase “this song’s for you” was a subtle, yet smart stylistic choice. The song seemed so damn simple yet so beautifully done!!! His conviction and deliverance of his performance makes him and his band shine through and stand above the rest.
“Home” is the first song that is not from Mike’s point of view, but from a woman. The chorus was infectious and instrumentation was executed flawlessly. The lyric “before she ran away she says to me…just tryin’ to find home…” is probably one of my favorite lines in the whole album because it encompasses so much, but is so simply said.
“Big Boy” and “Mr. Big Funky” follow soon after and liven up the sound again. Both of these songs, along with Someone Else Was Steppin In are great examples of why every one of their shows ends up being standing room only because you just want to get on your feel and party with them on stage!
“Hero” was another one of my favorites because it did such a phenomenal job of making the listener think the song had one message and was going one way and then completely change the point of view to something so unexpected. He starts the song as the hero and we take that ride with him and find out together that he’s no longer the hero of this story. After the instrument breakdown, the beginning part of the song comes back around to finish it off.
“Are You Serious?” brings their album to a close. This was the only instrumental track on the whole EP and I loved that this was such a soft and soulful end to “This Song’s For You.” It brought all the styles of R&B, funk, some rock, and so many others.
This band, in general, is extremely diverse and exceptionally talented at what they do. Overall, the soul and deliverance in this voice is nothing short of entrancing. He knows how to capture his audience while giving the instrumentals to shine through. Big Mike and the R&B Kings really pulled out all the stops on this album and it definitely shows! There are big things in sight for this band and I can’t WAIT for what’s next!
Give the full Album a listen down below!