[ by Rhetta Akamatsu – blogcritics.org ]

This is Markey Blue’s second album and it’s just as impressive as their debut Hey Hey was. The core of the group, vocalist Markey Latina and guitarist Ric Latina, are perfectly paired, with Ric’s expressive guitar perfectly complementing Markey’s passionate vocals on the song, all of which the two wrote together.

This is not a jam band. Each of the 10 songs is between three and five minutes long, and each is a perfectly crafted little gem that delivers a pop of emotion before moving on to the next, making the whole album fit together just right. It’s like an invigorating blues jaunt from Memphis and the Delta to Texas, Muscle Shoals, Kansas City, and Chicago in less than 45 minutes!

It all begins with Ric’s incredibly tasty slide guitar on “I’ll Wait for You,” which wakes up your ears for Markey’s energetic vocal. Next is the only live track, “That Ain’t Good Enough,” recorded at Ocean Way Recording Studios in Nashville. Markey is always in her element live, and it’s fun to hear the strut in her voice in this hot number. “Cold Out Side” adds horns to the guitars and vocals to give the song a soul punch, and “Cash Is Always King” tells a tough little story with swing and pizazz. It was written for potential television use but reflects Markey’s earlier experience performing in Las Vegas casinos.

Two songs on the album are tributes to musicians who Markey and Ric admire – along with thousands of other fans – who have passed on. “Lay Down Lucille” is obviously for B.B. King and Ric nails the guitar parts while Markey expresses both love and the continuing joy of King’s memory and music. “Be My Train” is a soulful salute to Little Milton.

The title song, “The Blues Are Knockin’” is a traditional ballad that really highlights Markey’s remarkable voice. “Nobody’s Fool” uses those horns to good effect again to preach a soul sermon about living life right in tough situations. “Me Missing You” is a bit more of a pop ballad, sung with aching sweetness, and “Worries” returns us to traditional blues, with Ric’s aching guitar adding even more emotional intensity to Markey’s poignant vocal.

This is a meticulously crafted album by talented musicians and songwriters who know how to deliver emotion in any musical style they choose. Markey has a voice that makes you want to listen over and over again, and Ric’s playing is superb. They know how to put arrangements together and choose just the right musicians to back them up, too. In short, there is nothing about this album that is not perfect. The Blues Are Knockin‘ needs to be in your contemporary blues collection.

(Rhetta Akamatsu is the author of “T’ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present”)