Kenny Neal was born in 1957 in New Orleans and raised in Baton Rouge. He began playing music at a young age. Learning the basics from his father, singer and blues harmonica master, Raful Neal. Kenny is known as a modern swamp-blues master and multi-instrumentalist, drawing musically from the sizzling sounds of his native Louisiana. Family friends like Lazy Lester, Buddy Guy and Slim Harpo also contributed to Kenny’s early musical education. In fact, it was Harpo who gave the crying three-year-old a harmonica to pacify him. Kenny stopped crying that day, and eventually learned to play the harmonica. Along the way, he also mastered the bass, trumpet, piano and guitar. At 13, he joined his father’s band and began paying his musical dues. Four years later, he was recruited and toured extensively as Buddy Guy’s bass player.
Following Buddy’s advice to concentrate on his guitar playing, Kenny relocated to Toronto, and along with his brothers Raful, Jr., Noel, Larry and Ronnie – formed the Neal Brothers Band, honing his chops backing up visiting blues stars. Through the years, he has shared the stage or worked with a who’s-who list of blues and R&B greats at one time or another, including B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Muddy Waters, Aaron Neville, Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker. Later, he fronted Canada’s Downchild Blues Band, before returning to Baton Rouge to begin his solo career.
Kenny Neal is an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist. His recent release, Hooked On Your Love, follows the triumph of his multi-award winning 2008 comeback album, Let Life Flow. An outstanding success, the CD raked in the accolades: three prestigious Album Of The Year awards, two Song of The Year awards for the title track, and Kenny himself garnered two Artist of the Year honors.
Signing with Alligator Records in 1988, Kenny began releasing a series of consistently lauded albums featuring his laid-back, Baton Rouge blues, with a modern spin on the Louisiana sound he grew up with. Throughout this period, Kenny distinguished himself as one of the brightest prospects of the contemporary blues scene, receiving great critical acclaim in the process. The Chicago Tribune pegged Kenny as “one of a mere handful of truly inventive young contemporary guitarists, Neal has something fresh to say and the chops with which to say it,” while AllMusic said his “gruff-before-their-time vocals retain their swamp sensibility, while assuming a bright contemporary feel that tabs him as a leading contender for blues stardom.” Blues Revue agreed, calling Kenny “one of the brightest stars on the blues horizon, and a gifted artist.”
Some of Kenny Neal’s awards and nominations:
- 2011 Inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame
- 2011 Jus’ Blues Music Foundation Contemporary/Traditional Blues Song Of The Year-Hooked on Your Love
- 2011 Critic’s Poll Living Blues Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album of the Year
- 2009 Monterey Bay Blues (M.O.B.B.A.Y.) Artist of the Year Award