One Kind Favor

This isn't just B.B. King's best album in years, it's one of the strongest studio sets of his career, standing alongside classics such as Singin' the Blues and Lucille. Where those early titles highlighted his youthful, wailing vocals and stinging guitar, this one plays to King's current strengths: the tear-stained vibrato of his mature voice, punctuated by raunchy licks. For too long, King has drowned in slick production, propped up by stiff duets with the likes of Eric Clapton. Here, King is front and center, with a killer backing band — Jim Keltner (John Lennon, Mick Jagger) on drums, Nathan East (Clapton) on stand-up bass and Dr. John on piano — that remains in the background. King is heartbreakingly intimate on standards like Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" and Leroy Carr's "Blues Before Sunrise." How did the 82-year-old find his old passion? With T Bone Burnett, naturally — the producer whose understated touch helped bring Robert Plant and John Mellencamp into their twilight years with dignity. Those projects were mere dress rehearsals for this one.