Billboard Magazine April 26, 1997
Here's an excerpt from Chris Morris' column in Billboard, "Declarations of Independents":
"FLAG WAVING: Guitarist/vocalist George Bedard has got the sound. If it's nifty roots-rock guitar picking your seeking, look no further than "Hip Deep," Bedard's second album with his band the Kingpins for Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Schoolkids' Records. As he did on his terrific 1992 schoolkids' debut, "Upside!," Bedard steps forward on the new disc with a crisply played menu of original tunes that deftly mine classic blues, rockabilly, and R&B styles. He also essays a handful of classics from back in the day, including Little Richard's "Heeby Jeebies," Elmore James, "Hawaiian Boogie," and saxman Red Prysock's instrumental, "Zip." The group also kicks in a rocked-up version of "The William Tell Overture."
Bedard, who was inspired to pick up the guitar as a teenager after witnessing Magic Sam at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival, continues to carry a torch for American roots styles.
"It still has vitality," Bedard says. "The collusion of black and white traditions in the South, that's where this stuff comes from. That blending of the two streams can still generate fresh music. It just depends how you approach it."
In Bedard's case, the approach consisted of performing with some of the blues masters -- Koko Taylor, Lightin' Slim, Big Walter Horton -- and then applying that knowledge to his own music. For several years, he was paired with guitarist Steve Nardella in the Silvertones, a Michigan unit that applied a similarly eclectic approach to roots forms.
On "Hip Deep," Bedard has enlisted a complement of guests to fatten the sound of the Kingpins (which also feature drummer/vocalist Richard Dishman and bassist/vocalist Randy Tessier), including a four peice horn section of Detroit jazz players, swinging harmonica player Dave Morris, and Chuck Berry's incomparable pianist Johnnie Johnson.
"He's been touring the last few years," Bedard says of Johnson, "and when he comes to Detroit, we usually back him up. He was here for the weekend, and I asked if he'd record with us."
Fans outside of Michigan may have to wait a while to catch Bedard's act live, since he stick close to home -- he's the father of two young children. "We don't tour a lot," he says. "We generally go out just on weekends...I'd like to keep my hands in, and maybe when my kids are older, [I'll] go out a little bit more nationally.
Album: Hip Deep
Artist: George Bedard & The Kingpins
As impressive as Bedard and the Kingpins' debut album was -- chock full of stylistic diversions, stellar playing and a tune selection that showed the band's wide musical palette to good advantage -- their sophomore effort broadens their horizons even further. Bedard's playing is a melting pot of T-Bone Walker blues, rockabilly, swing, jazz, country chicken pickin', '60s garage band chording, and the sleazier aspects of Chicago and Mississippi blues styles all whipped up into a most heady mix. Worthy covers come with scorching renditions of Elmore James' "Hawaiian Boogie," and a bop jazz tour de force on Red Prysock's "Zip" and the instrumental "William Tell '97." But Bedard's originals -- especially "Ball and Chain," the garage rocker "Dick Around," the bluesy "Quiet Mind," and the soulful "Lelia Ann" -- show tremendous growth as a songwriter, driving the band into new genre territory. With no sophomore jinx peeking out anywhere, Bedard and the Kingpins turn in that rarest of recorded entities: a second album that's actually better than their first.
George Bedard has been a seminal figure on the Michigan roots rock scene for more than 20 years. A member of the Silvertones in the 1970s and Tracy Lee & the Leonards in the 1980s, Bedard has been increasingly attracting the attention that his energetic guitar playing and gutsy vocals deserve as leader of his own band, the Kingpins. Goldmine recently called Bedard "one of the best rockabilly pickers on the planet," while Record Roundup wrote "Bedard may not become the next trendy thing, but as far as this kind of music, he’s already the next cool thing."
The Kingpins, featuring Randy Tessier on bass and Rich Dishman on drums, have developed a reputation as one of Michigan’s best bands since their formation in the early-’90s. Their debut album, Upside, was named Blues Album of the Year by CD Review in 1992. Upon the album’s release, Guitar Player referred to it as "a brainy composite of blues phrasing and rockabilly bad-boy twang." Their second album, Hip Deep, followed in 1997. ~ Craig Harris, All Music Guide