It's not often that you find an electric blues band at Blues Alley, the club's name notwithstanding, and the place was packed last night for a rare twin bill featuring Koko Taylor and Albert King.
What Taylor lacked in finesse she made up in sheer vocal might. Her voice was something of a marvel -- a raspy, rafter-rattling shout that probably carried around the block -- and she used it effectively on tunes with a similarly raucous quality. Although she didn't exactly improve on songs originally recorded by Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, there was no denying her authority or her young band's relentless beat. Tunes like "Beer Bar Boogie," though, were reminders that Taylor is best heard in a club that affords some dancing room.
King's set opened on a tentative note, despite backing by one of the best bands he's ever brought to town. However, once he got his familiar Flying V guitar tuned and his voice limber, he turned on the heat, with a surging solo on "Outskirts of Town." Like Taylor's show, there were few surprises songwise, but King's emotionally taut version of "Phone Booth" (composed by his former band member Robert Cray) and his fiery, sax-powered remake of "Stormy Monday" never sounded dated.
Taylor and King perform through Sunday night.