Based out of Indiana, King Bee & The Stingers are a tight five-piece unit who combine soul, Chicago and Delta blues into a package that demonstrates why they’ve been International Blues Challenge semi-finalists on two occasions.
Led by harp player/vocalist Mark “King Bee” Menefee, the Stingers formed in 2007, went through several personnel changes and released one EP previously as a tie-in to the IBCs. The band came into their own in 2014 with the addition of Menefee’s lead vocalist daughter, Sarah, a warm, full-bodied, melismatic alto who sounds far more mature than her age.
Joining the Menefees on the stage are veteran guitarist DK Buchanan, bassist Ken Meadows and percussionist Buddy Mitchell. They’re assisted here by Tom Clark on horns, Slats King on Hammond B3 organ and Mona Skirvin on harmonics. And lead guitar duties on the title cut are handled by Mary Druin.
“We don’t play traditional 1-4-5, 12-bar blues, says Sarah, who notes: “We don’t try to emulate any one blues sound or tradition. We just let it flow naturally.”
The Stingers deliver an interesting mix of eight tunes penned by friends or former band members and dip into the libraries of Howlin’ Wolf and Big Mama Thornton to complete the set, which was produced and recorded by Rich Morpurgo at Midwest Audio Recording in Bloomington. The opener, “You’re All I Need,” is a funky, propulsive, horn-driven Memphis blues that will grab you from the jump.
It flows smoothly into “Tattooed Love Girl,” a lady who’s such a stunner she’ll knock you dead the second she walks into the room. King Bee’s harp lines open the driving blues, “Half A Mind,” and are featured throughout as Sarah entertains thoughts of leaving a lover behind. The title tune, “Meet Me In Memphis,” is a sultry slow blues that carries the theme forward after a fight propelled by some terrific fret work. She’s calling to arrange a final rendezvous to hear some blues before she splits for good.
The Stingers deliver an interesting new arrangement Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning” before “Leave This World,” which opens acoustic, but quickly explodes into a medium-slow paced shuffle. The pace quickens for “Lucky One” before the rollicking rocker “Buzz Awhile,” which probably has audiences rushing to the dance floor when played live.
“Hound Dog,” penned by Lieber and Stoller and a major hit for Big Mama and Elvis, follows. A tune that’s been recorded to death, it’s a real time- and space-waster here despite new charts. Fortunately, the disc ends on a high note with the propulsive “Devil Train.” Like most all good railroad songs, it pulls out of the station slowly and quickly picks up speed.
King Bee & The Stingers are a band with promise...
WHAT PEOPLE SAY
— Marty Gunther, Blues Blast Magazine